Wild trips to Las Vegas, a "master password" that unlocked any Facebook account and hidden profiles for unregistered users are just a few Facebook secrets revealed this week thanks to Katherine Losse's new tell-all book, "The Boys Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network."
The former Facebook employee's book chronicles her experience at the social network from 2005 through 2010, and describes the company from an insider's perspective.
Losse was the 51st employee hired, and, at one point in her career at Facebook, served as Mark Zuckerberg's ghostwriter, putting her in close proximity with the executive and privy to the inner workings of Facebook. She experienced both enjoyable and frustrating moments while working at the social network, and describes lavish parties, secret customs, and even instances of sexual discrimination that occurred within the Facebook "fraternity."
Below are 13 revelations about Facebook's early days recounted in "The Boy Kings".
It Could Be Awkward Being A Woman
Losse describes Facebook as a boys club: "It was like Mad Men but real and happening in the current moment as if in repudiation of fifty years of social progress," she writes. She notes she once admonished Mark Zuckerberg because she thought he had "blow[n] off sexual harassment in the office" and was dissatisfied with the way he handled a complaint from a female coworker. A man told a female colleague, "I want to put my teeth in your ass." When Zuckerberg brought up the issue at an all-hands meeting, his response was,"What does that even mean?" Losse stated, "It was hard to tell whether it was with faux or genuine naiveté." She writes, "Mark was too busy programming to get to the part of a liberal arts education where you study social inequality."
Many Employees Lived Within A Mile Of Headquarters
For $600 a month, employees could live in a community within a mile of the Facebook offices. At first Zuckerberg reserved this right for only the engineers, not the support crew, but later changed his stance following employee outcry. Losse noted, "Within the mile, I rarely socialized with anyone who wasn't a Facebook employee." She stated that "we already had a scene" and that it was "impossible to meet anyone new" without the conversation turning back to Facebook -- so she typically stayed within "the mile."
Sheryl Sandberg's Bizarre Intro
Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg's first meeting with the Facebook troops wasn't exactly conventional. "Everyone should have a crush on Sheryl," Zuckerberg said when he introduced her to the company -- but only after commenting on Sandberg's "really good skin." Losse found the COO's introduction to the staff awkward, but welcomed the presence of another woman into the "Facebook fraternity." (Read more about this <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/mark-zuckerberg-sheryl-sandberg-facebook-staff-crush_n_1627641.html?utm_hp_ref=technology" target="_hplink">right here.</a>)
The Employee Who Wanted Threesomes
One particular engineer plagued the women in the office by sending emails with "friendly banter" that eventually escalated and led to sexual requests, Losse writes. He was known for inviting women in lower-ranking positions in the company to have threesomes with him and his wife. For years, this behavior continued without consequence. But when Sheryl Sandberg become COO, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/the-boy-kings-katherine-losse-facebook_n_1629137.html?utm_hp_ref=books&ir=Books" target="_hplink">many of the workplace harassment issues were checked</a>, and this particular offender was "subtly demoted."
This unofficial Facebook application, "Judgebook," was designed to let employees judge female users based on their appearance. And like all platform apps, "women did not have to consent to have their photographs used by the application," writes Losse. Data was automatically fed into the app "whether you wanted to be judged or not."
In the fall of 2006, Facebook implemented "dark profiles," or profiles for people who had yet to create an account on the site. They were based off of tagged photos of people who were not members, but who had friends who had uploaded pictures of them to Facebook. "We were using every technical means at our disposal to create a database of all the people in the world," Losse states.
The Facebook Hierarchy
At Facebook, the engineers ruled. "Engineering was what the company valued, so that created a natural hierarchy where guys who were engineers weren't really in an environment where they had to worry about how their behavior was perceived," Losse told <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/26/the-boy-kings-katherine-losse-facebook_n_1629137.html" target="_hplink">The Huffington Post when asked about what it was like being a woman at Facebook.</a> When Losse moved into a role on the engineering team, she felt like she was "going from being slave to being conqueror," she writes. She notes "it was assumed that I, like all the engineers, was upholding and advancing a whole new world, even if sometimes we were just sitting around the office playing games." G
While many Facebook users wish they could see who has viewed their profile, the Facebook team actually had an internal tool appropriately named "Facebook Stalker." Losse and other employees were able to see who viewed their profiles and for how long friends stayed on their pages.
Not Pretty Enough
On one corporate trip to Las Vegas, a group of the Facebook engineers invented a cruel game where they'd "methodically chat up and reject girls that the bouncers had brought to their table." In a video that Losse later watched of the night's events, she heard one of her coworkers say "Leave! You're not pretty enough!" to some of the girls.
Facebook's Master Password
Losse had just started working at Facebook when she was granted access to the "master password." All admins committed the password to memory, giving them the power to view anything they wanted on any account, including deleted information.
Mark's Birthday T-Shirts -- For The Women Only
In 2006, Losse received a t-shirt with Zuckerberg's picture on the front of it and was then told to wear the shirt for his birthday, just like all the other women in the office. The men were exempt from the uniform, but were told to don Adidas sandals in tribute to the CEO's footwear. "He's not my god or my president; I just work here," Losse thought to herself. Not wanting to participate in the party, she called out of work sick that day.
Later in her career, part of Losse's role in the company was to be Zuckerberg's ghostwriter. She constructed blog post, emails, and updated his Facebook fan page. "[It] was a fun puzzle, an impersonation challenge," she said. "I took pictures in the office and from the travel albums on his personal Facebook page and constructed spare captions in his voice, sticking to his main themes of information flow and changing the world."
Implicit Developer Trust
According to Losse, Facebook "implicitly trusted developers" working on the Facebook site. There were often parties designed for developers "to compete with one another" where most user data was open access. She discussed how these developers were supposed to "scrub their servers" of user data daily, but that there was no way to check if this was actually done.
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