Zuckerberg, Mark

▪ 2008
Mark Elliot Zuckerberg 
born May 14, 1984, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.

 In May 2007 Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old founder and CEO of the social networking Web site Facebook, announced the launch of Facebook Platform, which would allow independent developers to build applications within Facebook. With more than 24 million active members in early 2007 (and more than double that by year's end), Facebook was already a phenomenon—the sixth most trafficked Web site in the U.S., according to Zuckerberg. In October the company announced an agreement with Microsoft, already its exclusive broker of banner advertising and sponsorships. The software company would pay $240 million to buy a 1.6% stake in Facebook, which was now valued at some $15 billion.

      Zuckerberg grew up in Westchester county, N.Y., where he attended Ardsley High School before going to Phillips Exeter Academy, a private school in New Hampshire. He enrolled at Harvard University in 2002 and on Feb. 4, 2004, launched Facebook (originally, thefacebook.com), a directory in which fellow Harvard students entered their own information and photos into a template that he had devised. Within two weeks half of the student body had signed up. Zuckerberg's roommates, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, helped him add features and make the site available to other campuses across the country. That summer they moved their headquarters to Palo Alto, Calif., where Zuckerberg talked venture capitalist Peter Thiel into giving them seed money. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to concentrate on the fledgling company, which received its first major infusion of venture capital ($12.7 million) in May 2005. Four months later Facebook opened to registration by high-school students. Meanwhile, it continued its penetration of college campuses (where in September 2005, 85% of students were said to be registered). Foreign colleges and universities also began to sign up, and by September 2006 anyone with an e-mail address could join a regional network based on where he or she lived. About this time Zuckerberg turned down a $1 billion buyout offer from Yahoo!, but a year later Facebook struck the deal with Microsoft.

      Facebook offered an online place where registered users could create profiles, upload photos and other media, and keep in touch with friends. It differed from other social networking sites, however, in its emphasis on real names (and e-mail addresses), or “trusted connections.” It also laid particular emphasis on networking, with information disseminated not only to each individual's network of friends but also to friends of friends—what Zuckerberg called the “social graph.” Beginning in September 2006, Facebook introduced its News Feed feature, an automated method for telling members about their friends' changes and additions on the site.

      In late 2007 the founders of a Facebook competitor refiled an earlier lawsuit in which they alleged that Zuckerberg had misappropriated the idea for Facebook; he denied the charges. Just days later he responded to user protests and agreed to modify a new advertising feature that monitored online purchases by Facebook users. These two setbacks were not expected to deter Zuckerberg from his next goal: to overtake social networking rival MySpace—owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and claiming at least 100 million users—and to transform Internet use.

K. Anne Ranson

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Universalium. 2010.

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