The History of Facebook and How It Was Invented

Learn How Mark Zuckerberg Launched the World's Most Popular Social Media Network

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Mark Zuckerberg was a Harvard computer science student when he, along with classmates Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes invented Facebook. However, the idea for the web site, the world's most popular social networking page, oddly enough was inspired by a botched effort to get internet users to rate each other's photos. 

Hot or Not?

In 2003, Zuckerberg, a second year student at Harvard at the time, wrote the software for a web site called Facemash.

He put his computer science skills to good use by hacking into Harvard's security network, where he copied the student ID images used by the dormitories and used them to populate his new website. Interestingly enough, he had initially created the site as a type of "hot or not" game for fellow students. Website visitors could use the site to compare two student photos side-by-side and decide who was "hot" and who was "not." 

Facemash opened on October 28, 2003 and closed a few days later after it was shut down by Harvard execs. In the aftermath, Zuckerberg faced serious charges of breach of security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy for stealing the student photos he used to populate the site. He also faced expulsion from Harvard University for his actions. However, all charges were eventually dropped.


On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched with a new website called "Thefacebook." He named the site after the directories that were handed out to university students to aid them in getting to know one another better.

Six days later, he again got into trouble when Harvard seniors Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra accused him of stealing their ideas for an intended social network website called HarvardConnection and of using their ideas for TheFacebook. The claimants later filed a lawsuit against Zuckerberg, but the matter was eventually settled out of court.

Membership to the website was at first restricted to Harvard College students. Over time, Zuckerberg enlisted a few of his fellow students to help grow the website. Eduardo Saverin, for example, worked on the business end while Dustin Moskovitz was brought on as a programmer. Andrew McCollum served as the site's graphic artist and Chris Hughes became the de facto spokesperson. Together the team expanded the site to additional universities and colleges.


In 2004, Napster founder and angel investor Sean Parker became the company's president. The company changed the site's name from TheFacebook to just Facebook after purchasing the domain name in 2005 for $200,000.

The following year, venture capital firm Accel Partners invested $12.7 million in the company, which enabled the creation of a version of the network for high school students. Facebook would later expand to other networks such as employees of companies. In September of 2006, Facebook announced that anyone who was at least 13 years old and had a valid email address could join. By 2009, it had become the world's most used social networking service, according to a report by the analytics site 

While Zuckerberg's antics and the site's profits eventually led to him becoming the world's youngest multi-billionaire, he's done his part to spread the wealth around.

He's donated $100 million dollars to the Newark, New Jersey public school system, which has long been underfunded. In 2010, he signed a pledged, along with other wealthy businessmen, to donate at least half of his wealth to charity. Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have donated $25 million toward fighting the ebola virus and announced that they would contribute 99% of their Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to improve lives through education, health, scientific research and energy.  

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Bellis, Mary. "The History of Facebook and How It Was Invented." ThoughtCo, Jun. 27, 2017, Bellis, Mary. (2017, June 27). The History of Facebook and How It Was Invented. Retrieved from Bellis, Mary. "The History of Facebook and How It Was Invented." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 21, 2018).