Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (born May 14, 1984) is an American computer programmer and Internet entrepreneur. He is best known for co-creating the social networking site Facebook, of which he is chief executive. It was co-founded as a private company in 2004 by Zuckerberg and classmates Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes while they were students at Harvard University. In 2010, Zuckerberg was named Time magazine's Person of the Year. As of 2011, his personal wealth was estimated to be $17.5 billion making him one of the world's youngest billionaires.
Zuckerberg was born in 1984 in White Plains, New York to Karen, a psychiatrist, and Edward Zuckerberg, a dentist. He and his three sisters, Randi, Donna, and Arielle, were brought up in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Zuckerberg was raised Jewish and had his bar mitzvah when he turned 13; he has since described himself as an atheist.
At Ardsley High School, Zuckerberg had excelled in the classics before transferring to Phillips Exeter Academy in his junior year, where he won prizes in science (math, astronomy and physics) and classical studies (on his college application, Zuckerberg listed as non-English languages he could read and write: French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek) and was a fencing star and captain of the fencing team. In college, he was known for reciting lines from epic poems such as The Iliad.
At a party put on by his fraternity during his sophomore year, Zuckerberg met Priscilla Chan, a Chinese-American fellow student originally from the Boston suburbs, and they began dating in 2003. In September 2010, Zuckerberg invited Chan, by then a medical student at the University of California, San Francisco, to move into his rented Palo Alto house. Zuckerberg studied Mandarin Chinese in preparation for the couple's visit to China in December 2010.
On Zuckerberg's Facebook page, he listed his personal interests as "openness, making things that help people connect and share what's important to them, revolutions, information flow, minimalism". Zuckerberg sees blue best because of red–green colorblindness; blue is also Facebook's dominant color.
Software developer Early years
Zuckerberg began using computers and writing software as a child in middle school. His father taught him Atari BASIC Programming in the 1990s, and later hired software developer David Newman to tutor him privately. Newman calls him a "prodigy," adding that it was "tough to stay ahead of him." Zuckerberg also took a graduate course in the subject at Mercy College near his home while he was still in high school. He enjoyed developing computer programs, especially communication tools and games. In one such program, since his father's dental practice was operated from their home, he built a software program he called "ZuckNet," which allowed all the computers between the house and dental office to communicate by pinging each other. It is considered a "primitive" version of AOL's Instant Messenger, which came out the following year.
According to writer Jose Antonio Vargas, "some kids played computer games. Mark created them." Zuckerberg himself recalls this period: "I had a bunch of friends who were artists. They'd come over, draw stuff, and I'd build a game out of it." However, notes Vargas, Zuckerberg was not a typical "geek-klutz," as he later became captain of his prep school fencing team and earned a classics diploma. Napster co-founder Sean Parker, a close friend, notes that Zuckerberg was "really into Greek odysseys and all that stuff," recalling how he once quoted lines from the Roman epic poem Aeneid, by Virgil, during a Facebook product conference.
During Zuckerberg's high school years, under the company name Intelligent Media Group, he built a music player called the Synapse Media Player that used artificial intelligence to learn the user's listening habits, which was posted to Slashdot and received a rating of 3 out of 5 from PC Magazine. Microsoft and AOL tried to purchase Synapse and recruit Zuckerberg, but he chose instead to enroll at Harvard University in September 2002.
By the time he began classes at Harvard, he had already achieved a "reputation as a programming prodigy," notes Vargas. He studied psychology and computer science as well as belonging to Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity. In his sophomore year, he wrote a program he called CourseMatch, which allowed users to make class selection decisions based on the choices of other students and also to help them form study groups. A short time later, he created a different program he initially called Facemash that let students select the best looking person from a choice of photos. According to Zuckerberg's roommate at the time, Arie Hasit, "he built the site for fun." Hasit explains:
We had books called Face Books, which included the names and pictures of everyone who lived in the student dorms. At first, he built a site and placed two pictures, or pictures of two males and two females. Visitors to the site had to choose who was "hotter" and according to the votes there would be a ranking.
The site went up over a weekend, but by Monday morning the college shut it down because its popularity had overwhelmed Harvard's server and prevented students from accessing the Internet. In addition, many students complained that their photos were being used without permission. Zuckerberg apologized publicly, and the student paper ran articles stating that his site was "completely improper."
Around the time of Facemash, however, students were requesting that the university develop an internal website that would include similar photos and contact details. According to Hasit, "Mark heard these pleas and decided that if the university won't do something about it, he will, and he would build a site that would be even better than what the university had planned."
President Barack Obama and Zuckerberg talk before a private meeting where Obama dined with technology business leaders in Woodside, California, February 17, 2011. (Also pictured, from left: Carol Bartz of Yahoo!, Art Levinson of Genentech, Steve Westly of The Westly Group, and Eric Schmidt of Google.)
Founding and goals
Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room on February 4, 2004. An earlier inspiration for Facebook may have come from Phillips Exeter Academy, the prep school from which Zuckerberg graduated in 2002. It published its own student directory, “The Photo Address Book,” which students referred to as “The Facebook.” Such photo directories were an important part of the student social experience at many private schools. With them, students were able to list attributes such as their class years, their proximities to friends, and their telephone numbers.
Once at college, Zuckerberg's Facebook started off as just a "Harvard thing" until Zuckerberg decided to spread it to other schools, enlisting the help of roommate Dustin Moskovitz. They first started it at Stanford, Dartmouth, Columbia, New York University, Cornell, Penn, Brown, and Yale, and then at other schools that had social contacts with Harvard.
Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto, California, with Moskovitz and some friends. They leased a small house that served as an office. Over the summer, Zuckerberg met Peter Thiel who invested in the company. They got their first office in mid-2004. According to Zuckerberg, the group planned to return to Harvard but eventually decided to remain in California. They had already turned down offers by major corporations to buy out Facebook. In an interview in 2007, Zuckerberg explained his reasoning:
It's not because of the amount of money. For me and my colleagues, the most important thing is that we create an open information flow for people. Having media corporations owned by conglomerates is just not an attractive idea to me.
He restated these same goals to Wired magazine in 2010: "The thing I really care about is the mission, making the world open." Earlier, in April 2009, Zuckerberg sought the advice of former Netscape CFO Peter Currie about financing strategies for Facebook.
On July 21, 2010, Zuckerberg reported that the company reached the 500 million-user mark. When asked whether Facebook could earn more income from advertising as a result of its phenomenal growth, he explained:
I guess we could ... If you look at how much of our page is taken up with ads compared to the average search query. The average for us is a little less than 10 percent of the pages and the average for search is about 20 percent taken up with ads ... That’s the simplest thing we could do. But we aren’t like that. We make enough money. Right, I mean, we are keeping things running; we are growing at the rate we want to.
In 2010, Steven Levy, who authored the 1984 book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, wrote that Zuckerberg "clearly thinks of himself as a hacker." Zuckerberg said that "it's OK to break things" "to make them better." Facebook instituted "hackathons" held every six to eight weeks where participants would have one night to conceive of and complete a project. The company provided music, food, and beer at the hackathons, and many Facebook staff members, including Zuckerberg, regularly attended. "The idea is that you can build something really good in a night", Zuckerberg told Levy. "And that's part of the personality of Facebook now ... It's definitely very core to my personality."
Vanity Fair magazine named Zuckerberg number 1 on its 2010 list of the Top 100 "most influential people of the Information Age". Zuckerberg ranked number 23 on the Vanity Fair 100 list in 2009. In 2010, Zuckerberg was chosen as number 16 in New Statesman's annual survey of the world's 50 most influential figures.
In a 2011 interview with PBS after the death of Steve Jobs, Zuckerberg said that Jobs had advised him on how to create a management team at Facebook that was "focused on building as high quality and good things as you are."
A month after Facebook launched in February 2004, i2hub, another campus-only service, created by Wayne Chang, was launched. i2hub focused on peer-to-peer file sharing. At the time, both i2hub and Facebook were gaining the attention of the press and growing rapidly in users and publicity. In August 2004, Zuckerberg, Andrew McCollum, Adam D'Angelo, and Sean Parker launched a competing peer-to-peer file sharing service called Wirehog, a precursor to Facebook Platform applications.