Divya Narendra was a junior at Harvard University when he and his roommates — twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss approached another student Marc Zuckerberg to program a social networking site, originally called Harvard Connection — a matchmaking site for the university.
As shown in director David Fincher’s critically-acclaimed film The Social Network, Zuckerberg stalled the project by sending unsubstantial e-mails to the three, while developing the prototype of what he eventually called Facebook. Narendra and the twins ultimately sued Zuckerberg for stealing their idea and reached an out-of-court settlement with him for $65 million. They are currently involved in another lawsuit with Zuckerberg, claiming that Facebook misled them about the value of the stock they were to receive.
As stated by Business Insider, in their research they also uncovered two additional anecdotes about Mark’s behavior in Facebook’s early days that are more troubling. These episodes — an apparent hacking into the email accounts of Harvard Crimson editors using data obtained from Facebook logins, as well as a later hacking into ConnectU — are described in detail here.
- How Mark Zuckerberg Hacked The Harvard Crimson Using Data From TheFacebook.com
- How Mark Zuckerberg Hacked Into Rival ConnectU In The Summer Of 2004
Everyone wants proof and facts whenever something controversial is presented and because of that, this is a lengthy but detailed write up if you are interested in reading it.
A week after he launched the site in 2004, Mark was accused by three Harvard seniors of having stolen the idea from them.
This allegation soon bloomed into a full-fledged lawsuit, as a competing company founded by the Harvard seniors sued Mark and Facebook for theft and fraud, starting a legal odyssey that continues to this day.
In the fall of 2003, Harvard seniors Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra were on the lookout for a web developer who could bring to life an idea the three say Divya first had in 2002: a social network for Harvard students and alumni. The site was to be called HarvardConnections.com.
They first met in an early evening in late November in the dining hall of Harvard College’s Kirkland House. Cameron, Tyler, and Divya brought up their idea for Harvard Connection, and described their plans to A) build the site for Harvard students only, by requiring new users to register with Harvard.edu email addresses, and B) expand Harvard Connection beyond Harvard to schools around the country. Mark reportedly showed enthusiastic interest in the project.
Later that night, Mark wrote an email to the Winklevoss brothers and Divya: “I read over all the stuff you sent and it seems like it shouldn’t take too long to implement, so we can talk about that after I get all the basic functionality up tomorrow night.”
The next day, on December 1, Mark sent another email to the HarvardConnections team. Part of it read, “I put together one of the two registration pages so I have everything working on my system now. I’ll keep you posted as I patch stuff up and it starts to become completely functional.”
These two emails sounded like the words of someone who was eager to be a part of the team and working away on the project. A few days later, however, Mark’s emails to the HarvardConnection team started to change in tone. Specifically, they went from someone who seemed to be hard at work building the product to someone who was so busy with schoolwork that he had no time to do any coding at all.
December 4: “Sorry I was unreachable tonight. I just got about three of your missed calls. I was working on a problem set.”
December 10: “The week has been pretty busy thus far, so I haven’t gotten a chance to do much work on the site or even think about it really, so I think it’s probably best to postpone meeting until we have more to discuss. I’m also really busy tomorrow so I don’t think I’d be able to meet then anyway.”
A week later: “Sorry I have not been reachable for the past few days. I’ve basically been in the lab the whole time working on a cs problem set which I”m still not finished with.”
Finally, on January 8: Sorry it’s taken a while for me to get back to you. I’m completely swamped with work this week. I have three programming projects and a final paper due by Monday, as well as a couple of problem sets due Friday. I’ll be available to discuss the site again starting Tuesday. I’m still a little skeptical that we have enough functionality in the site to really draw the attention and gain the critical mass necessary to get a site like this to run…Anyhow, we’ll talk about it once I get everything else done.
So what happened to change Mark’s tune about HarvardConnection? Was he so swamped with work that he was unable to finish the project? Or, as the HarvardConnection founders have alleged, was he stalling the development of HarvardConnection so that he could build a competing site and launch it first?
As a part of the lawsuit against Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg, the above emails from Mark have been public for years. What has never been revealed publicly is what Mark was telling his friends, parents, and closest confidants at the same time.
Let’s start with a December 7th (IM) exchange Mark Zuckerberg had with his Harvard classmate and Facebook cofounder, Eduardo Saverin.
“They made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them.”
In December, 2003, a week after Mark’s first meeting with the HarvardConnection team, when he was telling the Winklevosses that he was too busy with schoolwork to work on or even think about HarvardConnection.com, Mark was telling Eduardo a different story. On December 7, 2003, we believe Mark sent Eduardo the following IM:
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.
This IM suggests that, within a week of meeting with the Winklevosses for the first time, Mark had already decided to start his own, similar project–“the facebook thing.” It also suggests that he had developed a strategy for dealing with his would-be competition: Delay developing it.
“I feel like the right thing to do is finish the facebook and wait until the last day before I’m supposed to have their thing ready and then be like look yours isn’t as good”
One purported IM exchange seems particularly relevant on the question of how Mark distinguished between the two projects–the “facebook thing” and “the dating site”–as well as how he was considering handling the latter:
Zuck: So you know how I’m making that dating site
Zuck: I wonder how similar that is to the Facebook thing
Zuck: Because they’re probably going to be released around the same time
Zuck: Unless I f@&k the dating site people over and quit on them right before I told them I’d have it done.
Zuck: Like I don’t think people would sign up for the facebook thing if they knew it was for dating
Zuck: and I think people are skeptical about joining dating things too.
Zuck: But the guy doing the dating thing is going to promote it pretty well.
Zuck: I wonder what the ideal solution is.
Zuck: I think the Facebook thing by itself would draw many people, unless it were released at the same time as the dating thing.
Zuck: In which case both things would cancel each other out and nothing would win. Any ideas? Like is there a good way to consolidate the two.
D’Angelo: We could make it into a whole network like a friendster. haha. Stanford has something like that internally
Zuck: Well I was thinking of doing that for the facebook. The only thing that’s different about theirs is that you like request dates with people or connections with the facebook you don’t do that via the system.
Zuck: I also hate the fact that I’m doing it for other people haha. Like I hate working under other people. I feel like the right thing to do is finish the facebook and wait until the last day before I’m supposed to have their thing ready and then be like “look yours isn’t as good as this so if you want to join mine you can…otherwise I can help you with yours later.” Or do you think that’s too dick?
D’Angelo: I think you should just ditch them
Zuck: The thing is they have a programmer who could finish their thing and they have money to pour into advertising and stuff. Oh wait I have money too. My friend who wants to sponsor this is head of the investment society. Apparently insider trading isn’t illegal in Brazil so he’s rich lol.
“I’m going to f@&k them.”
Mark met with the HarvardConnection team for the first time — in the dining hall of Mark’s residence, Kirkland House.
By this point, Mark’s site, thefacebook.com, wasn’t complete, but he was working hard on it. He’d arranged for Eduardo Saverin to pay for his servers. He had already told Adam that “the right thing to do” was to not complete Harvard Connection and build TheFacebook.com instead. He had registered the domain name.
He therefore had a choice to make: Tell Cameron, Tyler and Divya that he wanted out of their project, or string them along until he was ready to launch thefacebook.com.
Mark sought advice on this decision from his confidants. One friend told him, in so many words, you know me. I don’t ever think anyone should do anything bad to anybody.
Mark and this friend also had the following IM exchange about how Mark planned to resolve the competing projects:
Friend: So have you decided what you’re going to do about the websites?
Zuck: Yeah, I’m going to f@&k them
Zuck: Probably in the year
On January 14, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg met with Cameron, Tyler, and Divya for the last time. During the meeting at Kirkland House, Mark expressed doubts about the viability of HarvardConnection.com. He said he was very busy with personal projects and school work and that he wouldn’t be able to work on the site for a while. He blamed others for the site’s delays.
He did not say that he was working on his own project and that he was not planning to complete the HarvardConnection site.
After the meeting, Mark had another IM exchange with the friend above. He told her, in effect, that he had wimped out. He hadn’t been able to break the news to Cameron and Tyler, in part, he said, because he was “intimidated” by them. He called them “poor bastards.”
So then what happened?
Three days earlier, on January 11, 2004, Mark had registered the domain THEFACEBOOK.COM.
On February 4, he opened the site to Harvard students.
On February 10, Cameron Winklevoss sent Mark a letter accusing him of breaching their agreement and stealing their idea.
In late May, after going through two more developers, Cameron, Tyler and Divya launched HarvardConnection as ConnectU, a social network for 15 schools.
On June 10, 2004, a commencement speaker mentioned the amazing popularity of Mark’s site, thefacebook.com.
~ Source: Excerpts taken from Business Insider