The recently-released film The Social Network sheds light on the birth of a social revolution.
Facebook itself states that its creator and founder is Mark Zuckerberg. The film portrays Zuckerberg as a socially challenged young man, who created Facebook whilst studying at Harvard University.
It shows the site being created out of angst because Zuckerberg had been rejected by his peers and refused a place in the Elite Finals club of the university. Rather than project Zuckerberg in a good light, the film tends to show him as a headstrong, socially inept, naive young man.
Throughout his high school education, Zuckerberg showed a talent for coding websites. His high intelligence won him a place at Harvard University and he arrived brimming with ambition but sorely lacking in basic social skills.
It was towards to end of 2003 when Zuckerberg, feeling the pain of rejection by his peers and while drunk and alone in his dorm room, hacked into the university’s database and stole photos of female students. Using these he created a website – Fashmash.com – whose aim was to compare girls.
This was an instant hit gaining over 20,000 followers in only two hours. Alongside this overnight creation was a blog oozing vile statements targeted at an ex-girlfriend. It took only a few hours for the university authorities to track Zuckerberg and stop the site.
He was found guilty by the university board of invasion of privacy and stealing university data. Yet it was through the popularity of the Fashmash website that the relationship with the Winklevoss twins and their partner Narendra first came about. The twins approached the budding entrepreneur and asked him to join their team to create the Connect.U site.
Zuckerberg’s role would be to write the code for a site exclusively for Harvard students. Zuckerberg agreed and spent many months writing the code.
A new idea?
But feeling the pain of being low in Harvard’s social hierarchy, Zuckerberg developed an idea which has been described as a version of the Winklevoss’ idea. This brainchild has since grown into the towering heights of Facebook. So was the Facebook concept founded on a crime: the theft of intellectual property at Harvard University?
The contest to identfy the creator of Facebook became more confused when other members of the university claimed ownership of the idea. Yet its success could never have been anticipated and it is this success that so angers the Winklevoss twins and their partner Narendra. They claim that the idea was primarily theirs, and that Zuckerberg was an intellectual thief. The twins filed a lawsuit against the website and targeted Zuckerberg as a criminal.
Zuckerberg’s partner in the Facebook venture is Eduardo Saverin, who helped to finance the start of Facebook helped the company develop as a business.
Later on in the film Zuckerberg, heady with the success of the website, ambushes Saverin and cuts him out of the business. Saverin then flies another lawsuit against Zuckerberg and Facebook.
Can’t buy me love
It is at this point that his character flaws are exposed. Despite all the money he has made and the fame his creation has brought him, Zuckerberg is still a timid social recluse.
The film takes you through the birth, the growth, the successes and the failures of the first few years of a website with a population, if it were a country, third only to China and India. Facebook was created to put the university experience on the web and has exploded into documenting every moment, communication and even romantic connection on the net.
The tone of the film does not try to honour unsung heroes of the social media age, but to visualise the success of a very innovative and forward thinking idea.
Facebook has been accused of being addictive, of encouraging online stalking and discouraging conversation. Having hundreds or even thousands of friends on Facebook does not translate into the real world. Is Facebook a democracy, a fashion show or a social platform?
Zuckerberg is the world’s youngest billionaire funded from an idea created to help him be accepted. It is said that Zuckerberg carries round a business card that says “I’m CEO Bitch” and wears pyjamas to influential business meetings.
Is this the future of business? There is certainly no denying the success that has grown from a drunken night in a Harvard dorm room.