On 4 February 2004 Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg launched thefacebook.com.
This wasn’t Zuckerberg’s first attempt at creating a social networking site. His previous efforts included Facemash, a site that allowed students to rate one another’s appearance. To create Facemash, Zuckerberg hacked into Harvard’s “facebooks,” containing images of students to help them identify each other.
The website was a hit but Harvard shut it down and threatened to expel Zuckerberg for violating student privacy and breaching their security.
Zuckerberg’s next project, theFacebook, built on his experience with Facemash. His plan was to create a website that linked everyone at Harvard together. Within twenty-four hours of launching the site, theFacebook had between twelve hundred and fifteen hundred registered users.
Within a month, half of the undergraduate population of Harvard were registered. Zuckerberg expanded his team to include fellow Harvard students Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, Andrew McCollum and Chris Hughes.
Over the next year, the site expanded to other Ivy League universities and then to all universities across the United States and Canada. In August 2005 the site changed to Facebook.com when the address was bought for $200,000. In September 2006, having spread to colleges and schools across the globe, Facebook was opened to everyone with a registered email address.
The fight for Facebook
But it wasn’t all plain sailing. Just one week after launching theFacebook, Zuckerberg became embroiled in a long-running legal dispute. Three seniors at Harvard – Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra – claimed Zuckerberg agreed to create a social networking site for them called HarvardConnection.
They alleged instead that Zuckerberg had stolen their idea and used it to create his own site. However, in 2007 a judge ruled that their case was too flimsy and that idle chat between students did not constitute a binding agreement. The two sides agreed to a settlement.
According to records for September 2016, Facebook has 1.18 billion daily active users.
Image: Mark Zuckerberg ©TechCrunch CC BY 2.0