One morning in 2004, students at Harvard University woke up and discovered a new website had launched that allowed them to connect with their classmates on a virtual social network. Within a few hours, the site had taken Harvard by storm, and within a few years, this campus fad would become a full-blown global phenomenon. It would make its founder the youngest billionaire in the world and would forever alter the fundamentals of human interaction. Facebook had been born.
The legend of Facebook has been told many times and in many ways, yet each telling has been clouded by half-truths and ulterior motives, betrayals and equivocations. Now, for the first time ever, the key figures in the internet’s greatest social network have agreed to reveal the definitive and authoritative story. This is the oral history of Facebook.
Mark Zuckerberg (founder and CEO, Facebook): I was in my sophomore year at Harvard. It was 2003, which is the year that historians call The Dunce’s Millennium because the world was dark chaos. Everyone was running around with all of their secrets locked up in their brains. Nobody knew anybody’s favorite movies. Nobody knew what anybody else looked like in a bathing suit. I wanted to change that.
Eduardo Saverin (co-founder, Facebook): Mark and I were roommates at Harvard. He was a computer guy, and I was a money guy. I had 40 dollars.
Mark Zuckerberg: I knew that if I wanted to create the open and connected world of my dreams, I had to make a real impact, and the way to do that was to do what I did best: start a website that everyone wanted to look at and that would make people say, “Here’s the website.” This became my life’s goal. I had the computer skills, but I needed 40 dollars to make it happen. I called 911 and said, “This is Mark Zuckerberg. Who has 40 dollars?” and the police said, “Eduardo Saverin has 40 dollars.”
Eduardo Saverin: I had just won the Nobel Prize in Economics for having 40 dollars. All of a sudden, Mark bursts into the room and says, “Eduardo, I’ve gone insane with ambition. Let’s make the most popular website in the whole world.” So, Mark and I began making website after website in an attempt to become kings of the internet. There were some missteps at first.
Mark Zuckerberg: The first website we made was www.MakeMyNudesFight.com. The premise of the site was simple: A user uploads two photographs of themselves in the nude by cramming them backwards into their printer. At the MakeMyNudesFight headquarters, I receive your nudes and generate two 3D models based on your nudes. Then we have the two nude versions of you wrestle each other in a gorgeously rendered digital death match. Both nudes die. Every time. And that’s the MakeMyNudesFight.com Guarantee.
Eduardo Saverin: MakeMyNudesFight.com generated 8 million hits in the first six minutes. It was a hit, and we all thought, “This is great!” But then something went wrong. One of the nudes survived the digital death match, which clearly violated the MakeMyNudesFight.com Guarantee. We were sued into oblivion. We went bankrupt.
Mark Zuckerberg: After the failure of MakeMyNudesFight.com, I became incredibly unpopular. I got an email from the president of Harvard that said, “I can’t wait for you to die.” The subject line of the email was “An Electronic Prayer.” I kept trying to think of an idea, but nothing was coming. Things looked bleak. I needed a miracle. I was lucky enough to get two.
Cameron And Tyler Winklevoss (inventors of Facebook, identical river giants): We recall the first time we laid eyes on Zuckerberg, the deceitful Serpent Supreme. Yes my brother we remember, we remember the Serpent Supreme whose word is law to all the warthogs of the jungle. He was repulsive to us but we also knew that he was the King of Computer Magic. Yes the king but disgusting so disgusting my brother I am in love with your water skills. Thank you for saying so my sweet brother when you are paddling your rowboat I cannot even believe it. Yes my brother let’s never be apart. And so anyway we saw the Serpent Supreme Zuckerberg and we knew he was strong in the ways of Computer Magic so we put our hands in each other’s pockets and walked over to the Serpent Supreme and we told him our idea for a website.
Divya Narendra (friend of the Winklevoss Twins): The magnificent rowboat twins and I had developed an idea for a website called HarvardConnection.com. The website provided an online space where Harvard students could go to find out if their classmates could swim. You would upload a picture of your face, and then you’d be asked to check a box that said either “I can swim” or “I’m proud as hell to announce that I can’t swim.”
Mark Zuckerberg: As soon as the furious boat clones told me about HarvardConnection, I immediately saw the potential. Before HarvardConnection, the only way to find out whether your classmates could swim was by throwing them into a lake and seeing if they drowned. HarvardConnection had the potential to revolutionize the social scene at Harvard forever. I said to the Winklevoss Twins, “Twins, I will help you make your website.”
Eduardo Saverin: Mark walks into the dorm room and he’s got this huge grin on his face. I said to him, “Mark, what’s going on?” and Mark says to me, “I have a great idea for a website to steal. It’s called Facebook, and I didn’t invent it.” I said to Mark, “Let’s do it.”
Cameron And Tyler Winklevoss: At first we were glad when Zuckerberg the Serpent Supreme agreed to help us make our website yes my brother we thought he would help us, we trusted him my beloved brother we sleep in the same bed and dream in unison I love it we should not have trusted Zuckerberg the Serpent Prince Of Warthogs no my brother he has a tainted soul we were born at the exact same time we should never have trusted the Serpent Supreme because he was about to take us on a journey of bitter betrayal. I love my two brothers named Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
Zuckerberg had the vision for the website that would change the world. The next step was to make it a reality. The young programmer began designing his social network, while simultaneously navigating Silicon Valley’s cutthroat world of venture capitalism and ruthless competition.
Mark Zuckerberg: In the earlier versions of Facebook, you couldn’t write your own messages. The site only allowed you to send your friends a pre-rendered message that said “Greetings, my main man! Such a shame about September 11, 2001! Are you going to have sex in the future?” And your friend could only reply with the message “How it dangles, my top radical dude? Just found out about September 11, 2001. Incredible! To answer your question, I will have sex in 100 years.”
Eduardo Saverin: Mark wanted to build a social network where you could write your own messages, which at the time had never been done before.
Mark Zuckerberg: After building out fully customizable messages, we had to decide on a name for the site.
Eduardo Saverin: Mark’s original name for the site was www.TheWebsiteCalledFacebookTheSocialNetwork.com.
Mark Zuckerberg: We later changed the name of the website to www.WellNowItIsTimeForMeToLogIntoFacebookTheWebsite.com.
Eduardo Saverin: We then decided to simply call the site www.WellWouldYouLookAtTheTimeItIsTimeForMeToLogIntoFacebookHereIGoRightNow.com.
Mark Zuckerberg: We thought that this was the perfect name, until we learned that there was already a tech startup with this exact URL. They sued us into oblivion, and we went bankrupt. Eduardo and I quickly realized that we had no idea how to make it in Silicon Valley.
Eduardo Saverin: To use the old business proverb, we needed someone with experience to “Grab us by the tongue and drag us to Geyser.”
Mark Zuckerberg: We looked everywhere for a savior, but in the end, our savior found us.
Sean Parker (founder of Napster, original president of Facebook): Zuckerberg was so bad at Business. I was so good at Business. Always in the past I have 1 million dollars. Always in the past I give painful, raging birth to my son Napster, the website that swallowed the radio. I loved my sweet son Napster, but alas, Napster was illegal, and so he was murdered by Metallica.
Eduardo Saverin: I think Sean saw Facebook as a replacement website for Napster.
Sean Parker: Always in the past my heart is broken for my dead son Napster. But then I saw the gorgeous friendship website Zuckerberg was building at Harvard and I wanted to help him. I think our websites would have gotten along. I think my dead son Napster and the website Facebook would have fucked each other. Beautiful.
Mark Zuckerberg: Once Sean was on board, everything started coming together. He was the one who convinced us to change the name of the website from www.TheFamousStolenWebsiteCalledFacebook.com to just plain www.Facebook.com.
Cameron And Tyler Winklevoss: I remember the day we were born my brother yes my brother so do I yes we watched ourselves being born from a distance through a telescope. Our father waded out into the river and he said, “Oh, fuck! Here come my famous twins,” and our father squirted us out of his Dispenser and we tumbled into the river full-grown yes my nice twin how hideous to watch our own births unfold through a telescope from far away yes my brother we are so good at boats.
Eduardo Saverin: Sean also started setting up business meetings with big-time investors. People with more than 40 dollars. People with money so huge you could see it from space.
Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal, early investor in Facebook): So my phone rings, and I answer it, and a voice on the other end says, “Metallica murdered my son. Hello, I am Sean Parker.” Sean told me about Facebook and how it would make it so easy to find out whether or not your friends could swim. I immediately invested every penny I had.
Mark Zuckerberg: After that, there was no looking back. Peter’s investment had rocketed us into the major leagues of business. Facebook was quickly becoming what I had always dreamed it would be: an unstoppable social juggernaut with pictures of people in their bathing suits.
Sean Parker: When Metallica murdered my son Napster, he screamed.
Facebook first went live in February 2004. The site became an immediate hit on the Harvard campus and soon spread to other schools. The Winklevoss Twins believed that Facebook shared many similarities with their concept for HarvardConnection. They accused Zuckerberg of stealing their idea. Before long, a struggle for control of Facebook was underway.
Divya Narendra: Facebook was clearly HarvardConnection with a worse name. The Twice Men and I weren’t about to let Zuckerberg steal our billion-dollar idea without a fight. We called 911 and said, “Mark Zuckerberg better lawyer the fuck up,” and the police said, “Please stop calling, we’re in the middle of trying to arrest a dog.”
Cameron And Tyler Winklevoss: We hate the Serpent Supreme for betraying us. He took our website and he made a twin for it. What a hideous deed. Websites must never be twins. Only boat boys can be twins.
Mark Zuckerberg: The Winklevoss Twins sued us.
Divya Narendra: We thought that we were going to win the case, but halfway through the trial, the judge sentenced himself to death for liking slam dunks too much. This brought the lawsuit to a screeching halt.
Cameron And Tyler Winklevoss: The courts had failed us my brother yes I agree my brother and so we needed to take matters into our own hands. We needed to steal our website back from Zuckerberg, the Snake Sultan In Charge Of The Warthogs Of The Jungle yes my brother we needed to sneak into the office and take our website back from the Serpent Supreme by force and by cunning. We look the same.
Eduardo Saverin: The Winklevoss twins started trying to break into the Facebook offices and steal Mark’s computer.
Mark Zuckerberg: It seemed like the Winklevoss Twins thought that stealing my computer was the same as stealing Facebook itself.
Peter Thiel: Mark told security to be on the lookout for the River Clones. We thought we were safe. And then, one day, disaster struck.
Eduardo Saverin: One day, two men wearing white beards and red hats rowed into Facebook Headquarters in a rowboat. They were pushing the rowboat across the floor with their oars, and it made a terrible sound. We asked the two men who they were and they said, “Don’t you recognize us? We are Gift Gorilla from Christmas yes my sweet brother I agree the two of us are the one jolly man named the Gift Gorilla riding through the night on Christmas Eve to bring forks and knives to everyone who masturbated this year yes my brother but if you did not masturbate this year then misery of miseries you will not get your Christmas forks and knives from Gift Gorilla oh no you will not my brother this is a well-known Christmas law for Gift Gorilla. You know us. Please take us to the Serpent Supreme’s computer the two of us are just one person.”
Mark Zuckerberg: I thought to myself, “Wow! The Gift Gorilla himself! Right here at Facebook Headquarters!” so I led the two men straight to my laptop. They immediately grabbed it, jumped into their rowboat, and, cackling gleefully, they paddled the rowboat very slowly across the floor, down the hallway, and out of a 12th-floor window.
Eduardo Saverin: The boat crashed onto the ground below. It splattered into a thousand pieces, and the two men’s Gift Gorilla costumes exploded. We saw then that this wasn’t Gift Gorilla at all. It had been the Winklevoss Twins all along.
Cameron And Tyler Winklevoss: The fall in the boat put us in a coma for an entire year yes my brother a glorious coma you and I had the same exact dream about a crow that kept looking at us and saying, “You ate the Third Winklevoss in the womb. You ate your triplet in the womb and now his unborn ghost haunts our bathrooms.” What a mysterious dream we had in our coma my brother yes my twin we’ll never know what it means.
Peter Thiel: The Gift Gorilla crisis was a wake-up call. Facebook wasn’t safe. We needed someone to protect the website. We needed someone who loved Facebook to become an eternal sentinel dedicated to the site’s security. Once again, the hero we needed came forward.
Sean Parker: Always in the past I am in the courtroom when the judge says that my beautiful illegal son Napster has to die. Such a pain in my heart! Forever and even today I want to spare others this pain. And so I am always rooting for Mark Zuckerberg to win, and I want to protect his beautiful wife named Facebook. And so always in the past I swear to Mark Zuckerberg that I will dedicate my life to protecting Mrs. Facebook from the Winklevoss Twins who want to kidnap her.
Divya Narendra: The Twins and I still want to steal Facebook back, but Sean Parker is always watching. As long as Sean Parker is alive, Facebook will be safe from the Winklevoss Twins.
Sean Parker: Always in the past I do it for Mark Zuckerberg. But I also do it for myself. And most of all, I do it for my wonderful dead son Napster, who was murdered by Metallica, the band with three good songs.
Facebook went on to become the most popular social network on the internet. The little website that started in a Harvard dorm room now boasts more than 1 billion users and continues to grow every day. Now that Facebook has conquered the world, what’s next? What is the future of Facebook, and how will the world change with it?
Mark Zuckerberg: I remain dedicated to creating a more open and connected world, and Facebook is a vital part of that mission. Last month, we introduced a new feature that alerts you whenever your dad says your name while his shirt is off. We had to take that particular feature offline because the sheer volume of notifications threatened to take down our servers.
Eduardo Saverin: Mark continues to aim for a world without secrets. Facebook remains his vicious burden. I no longer work at Facebook, but I’m proud of what I accomplished with that site, and the work I did there propelled me to further success. I recently won my second Nobel Prize in Economics for drawing a picture of the Monopoly Man weeping after learning that the Allies had won World War II.
Peter Thiel: A lot of us who were there at the beginning have moved on. I’m currently the CEO of a startup called Ocean Car. It’s like Uber, but exclusively for car rides that drive you straight into the ocean. The best part is that 100 percent of our revenue goes directly to the Royal Adultery Foundation, which is a wonderful nonprofit working hard to support adultery all over the United States.
Eduardo Saverin: The co-founders of Facebook have all gone their separate ways, but I think what binds us all is our unwavering desire to make the world a better place, or at least a different place, or at least a place. We’re all striving to make the world a place.
Mark Zuckerberg: Imagine a world where there are toilets in the middle of the street, and when you need to drop a Fearsome Brown, you march out into the middle of the street where everyone can see you, and if you’re a man, you reveal your Sickly Pendulum, and if you’re a woman, you reveal your Wacky Mystery, and you just sit there on the street toilet and drop your shame into the outdoor bowl for all to see, and cars honk at you while you do your problem. This is the sort of open, connected world that Facebook is striving to create. I will not rest until this is the world we live in. My soul belongs to all of the Greek Gods and all of the Egyptian Gods. Amen.
Cameron And Tyler Winklevoss: One day we will kill him my brother yes my brother one day soon we will climb into the Serpent Supreme’s house and we will row our boat noisily across the floor of his dark dry hallways to where Zuckerberg the Serpent Supreme sits sleeping on his throne of lies and we will open our mouth wide yes my brother and we will lick our lips of course we will my strong brother and we will not even chew him we will simply swallow him whole yes my identical wet brother and he will disappear down our throat and we will have justice at last yes my brother and all iniquities shall be carried away like well-rowed boats on the river of time goodnight brother goodnight brother goodnight.