Who is Mark Zuckerberg? We investigate the man behind Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg is the man who created Facebook. That much we know. Although Jesse Eisenberg’s 2010 portrayal threw a spanner into the works of even that information (cc: the Winklevoss twins).
We know relatively little else about Zuckerberg: Who he is, where he’s come from and most importantly of all, where he’s headed. Read on to find out everything we know – and want to know – about the man behind Facebook.
Like The Social Network’s frankly outstanding marketing team put it, you don’t get to 500 million friends (now one billion) without making a few enemies…
Who is Mark Zuckerberg?
Mark Zuckerberg: Early life
Mark Elliott Zuckerberg was born on 14 May 1984 in White Plains, New York. He excelled in high school classes, transferring to famous boarding school Phillips Exeter Academy (whose endowment stands at over one billion dollars), where he excelled at maths, astronomy and physics.
Zuckerberg’s father, Edward, a dentist, taught him Atari BASIC Programming in the 1990s, later hiring a software developer to tutor him. Mark went on to create a software program called ZuckNet – a system of communication between the computers in his home and his father’s dental office. What sounds like a modest feat is actually widely considered to be the “primitive” version of AOL’s Instant Messenger, which came out the the subsequent year.
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Zuckerberg went on to Harvard University, where he read psychology and computer science at Kirkland House, later dropping out when Facebook took flight.
At university, Zuckerberg garnered a reputation as a programming prodigy. Fledgling endeavours included CourseMatch, a program which allowed users to select classes according to the choices of other students, and form study groups accordingly. He also engineered Facemash, a program that let users select the best looking person from a set of two adjacent pictures.
Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook
January 2004 saw Zuckerberg writing code for a new site, which came to fruition on 4 February 2004 when he launched thefacebook.com from his Harvard dorm room.
The Facebook – the “the” was later dropped – began as an exclusive social network for Harvard students before expanding to other elite colleges in the US, including Columbia, Yale, NYU and Stanford.
Zuckerberg moved out to Palo Alto, California with a bevy of peers including roommate Dustin Moskovitz in order to take Facebook to the next level. He met with the titanic Peter Thiel, who invested in the company, dropping out of Harvard in his sophomore year to develop Facebook full-time.
Some fourteen years later, Facebook boasts an astronomical one billion users. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg’s social media platform has taken him as far and wide as Russia (where he met with Dmitry Medvedev in a bid to stimulate Russian social media innovation) and China (which spurred on his relationship with the country’s “Internet czar,” Lu Wei).
In May 2017, Zuckerberg was awarded an honorary degree from Harvard University.
Mark Zuckerberg: Instagram
Instagram – the ubiquitous photo sharing network – was launched in October 2010, initially just for iPhone before expanding to Android a couple of years later.
After the acquisition, Zuckerberg pledged to let Instagram develop as its own entity, letting users share posts from the free app on rival platforms such as Twitter. That being said, when you do share to Twitter, all it does it send out a link. Not the most engaging of media.
Still, Instagram is faring well regardless; it currently boasts in the region of 800 million monthly active users.
Mark Zuckerberg: WhatsApp and other businesses
Adding to its list of high-profile acquisitions, Facebook purchased WhatsApp in February 2014 for $19 billion in cash and shares. The purchase marks the company’s biggest acquisition to date.
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Zuckerberg was outwardly elated, dubbing WhatsApp’s services “incredibly valuable” in a statement announcing the deal. As of December 2017, WhatsApp boasted more than 1.5 billion monthly active users. Looks like Zuckerberg’s dream to see the platform “connect one billion people” came to fruition under his stewardship.
The billionaire tech guru is also credited with launching Internet.org in August 2013, a project intended to bring Internet access to the five billion people who were not – at the time of the project’s inception – connected to it.
This led to a high-profile meeting with Narendra Modi, Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai in Silicon Valley, where the leaders ruminated on how to effectively provide affordable internet access in less developed countries.
Together with his wife, Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg has promised to donate 99% of the pair’s Facebook shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, an organisation they founded which focuses on health and education. The donation will be eked out over the course of their lifetimes.
Mark Zuckerberg: Controversy
Like any prominent tech billionaire, Zuckerberg is no stranger to controversy. Most recently has been his role in the fake news epidemic, with many billing Facebook and WhatsApp as responsible for the spreading of misinformation.
This year also saw Zuckerberg appear in front of Congress amid allegations of data harvesting and election interference.
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And while vigilantes (slash, anyone with a pulse and a sense of righteousness) rejoiced that Zuckerberg was finally being held to account for Facebook’s dubious handling of personal data, in many ways the real win was the meme fodder to emerge from the hearing…
As we say, you don’t get to one billion friends without making a few enemies. Of whom Twitter’s amateur comedians are perhaps the most formidable.
Header image: Anthony Quintano, used under Creative Commons