Sri Lanka ranks 75th in the world of Facebook users with over 1.2 million users, while there are 44 million in India, 155 million in the USA. Vatican city has only 20 users.
CNN called it the Holy Grail of internet, with the report that Facebook earned $1 billion off sales of $3.7 billion for 2011 with 845 million monthly active users. This news made me read ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ by Ben Mezrich. The author described the book as “a dramatic narrative account based on dozens of interviews, hundreds of sources, and thousands of pages of documents, including records from several court proceedings.”
The book is about how Facebook came into being, how so many accidental happenings brought it about.
The story of Facebook is the story of most creative works, discoveries and inventions. We have the proverbial stories about Archimedes and Newton, but there would have been many such stories throughout evolution, unrecorded and therefore unknown.
There are so many stories about how Facebook as we know it today, had its origins. But the man who knows what exactly happened, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg had refused to talk to the author Mezrich when he started to write the book about the faces behind Facebook. Mezrich had to depend mostly on what Eduardo Saverin, told him. Saverin was Zuckerberg's closest friend at Harvard and the first investor and partner of Facebook. Someday If Mark Zuckerberg comes out with his autobiography, we could learn at least a part of the story, but even then not the whole truth, because no autobiographer would reveal the whole truth.
Facebook was not an original idea, even the name itself was in use, and the idea of developing a dating site was floating around, not only at Harvard, but at other universities and wherever boys wanted to meet girls. Facebook was the name used by the Harvard administration for the data bank where they had the faces of all Harvard students.
This is one more instance to convince us that the same ideas can come up to many people around the world, and also that there are no new or original ideas.
The idea was to develop an online community of friends, the concept of an online “social network” had already gained a foothold. It was to be more than a dating site, “the van-like bus that travelled between the Harvard campus and a half a dozen of the nearby all-girl schools”. The original design of The facebook, continues today, with the same information, ‘Looking for, Relationship status, and Interested in’, though what the worldwide Facebook members are not just looking for girls or seeking a ‘relationship'.
The Winklevos twins and Divya Narendra claim that Zuckerberd stole their idea, and sabotaged the ‘Harvard Connection’ project till he could launch his own Facebook.
The Harvard Administration had not taken Winkclevos’ complaint seriously, Harvard president Lawrence H. Summers had decided it was not a university issue, that it was between the Winklevos and Zuckerberg. but the litigation is still going on, though Winklevos do not have any solid evidence to prove their claim. Businessinsider.com quotes an e-mail sent by Zuckerberg to Saverin - “Check this site out: www.harvardconnection.com and then go to harvardconnection.com/datehome.php.
Someone is already trying to make a dating site. But they made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them. So I'm like delaying it so it won't be ready until after the facebook thing comes out.”
Was it just luck, that Zuckerberg was there at the right place at the right time, or was it just a flimsy idea that catapulted into instant fame and popularity, one of many such ventures which entered cyberspace at the time? Or was it the entrepreneurship skills, the aggressiveness, and disregard for conventions and concern for others feelings, that resulted in Facebook? We may never know if it was the speech by Bill Gates at Harvard, which compelled Zuckerberg to give up Harvard and devote full time for his project, following in the footsteps of Gates himself. As Gates had commented that the next Bill Gates was out there, possibly in that very room.
Thefacebook.com domain name had been registered on January 13, 2004, and website was launched on February 4th, 2004. The homepage had not changed much, since then.
According to Mezrich, Eduardo Saverin who made the first investment of $ 1000 to buy the servers for Facebook, had from the start wanted to chase advertising dollars, to “monitize Facebook”, but Zuckerberg had just wanted to keep it as a “fun site”, not try to make any money out of it. Zuckerberg is said to have turned down an offer of between one and two million dollars from Microsoft, long before he entered Harvard.
Two new faces joined Zuckerberg and Saverin. They were Zuckerberg's room-mates at Harvard, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. Markovtiz to take some of the computer work off Zuckerberg and Hughes look after publicity and outreach. Saverin as CFO, Moskovitz, vice-president and Head of programming, Hughes Director of publicity and Zuckerberg - “founder, master and commander” thefacebook.com became just Facebook and officially the new name was adopted. All four of them “were certainly not what you would call part of the social elite at Harvard...They were all geeks”.
Their first step was to take The facebook to other schools, Yale, Columbia and Stanford for a start. Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster realized that thefacebook had succeeded where MySpace and Friendster had failed, by reaching out to the college kids, who had the most use for a social network, which made Parker taken an interest in Facebook.
Sean Parker had been arrested by FBI at the age of 16, for hacking, and at 19, worked with Shawn Fanning, to create the song sharing service which revolutionized the music industry. It was Parker who connected Zuckerberg with Peter Thiel, founding force behind PayPal, who agreed to put in “seed-money”, just five hundred thousand dollars to the new facebook.com. “the” had been dropped, the way Parker wanted it.
Zuckerberg and Saverin were still friends and part of the Facebook team. Saverin had been thrilled to hear that President Summers had used Facebook to checkout the freshmen to Harvard that year.
Then Zuckerberg and Parker got Saverin pushed out of Facebook, completely. A few months later it was Parker's turn to be thrown out, when he was nabbed by the police at a house party. Because "Mark wouldn't let anything, or anyone, stand in the way of Facebook" (Mezrich). Zuckerberg has later recognized Saverin's role in the founding of Facebook, and it is believed that he received a one billion dollar settlement.
The Economic Times (Washington) reported on Feb. 12th, 2012, that a new agreement gives Facebook the right to terminate services of Zuckerberg at any time, for any reason, or without a reason, but he also enjoys similar exit rights. Today Sheryl Sandberg, Zuckerbergs No. 2 at Facebook as COO stands to be a $ 1.6 billion woman. She had joined Facebook in 2008, from Google, where she was vice president of global online sales and operations. As of November 2011, Mark Zuckerberg, at the age of 27, was the 9th most powerful person, 14th richest on Forbes 400, and 52nd on Forbes Billionaires. He was the Times 2010 Person of the Year, while the first investor in Facebook, Eduardo Saverin is ranked 212th on Forbes 400
Chris Hughs led online social network organizing for Obama in 2008 and later launched Jumo, a non-profit site for social activism.
Man had come a long way from sending messages using pigeons, or like in our ancient poems using clouds, parrots or selalihiniyas. Or by beating drums or sending smoke signs. Today Facebook and other social networks are the 'in thing'. The fate of Facebook could depend on the outcome of the IPO. Or one of these days a more user-friendly network could catch the eye and the mind of the younger generation.
Till then we have become a global village through Facebook, breaking down barriers of race or creed, with only languages keeping us apart. Let's hope we can breakdown the language barrier too, very soon.
Courtesy - Daily News by Daya DISSANAYAKE