The founding of Facebook is an oft-told tale: The social media site was started in a Harvard dorm room by the ambitious (and sometimes socially awkward) sophomore Mark Zuckerberg. What followed was a period of stunning growth punctuated by, among other things, rows over intellectual property.
Thanks to Harvard alum Aaron Greenspan, a former acquaintance of Zuckerberg's, the web now has a fresh peek behind the scenes of Facebook's early days. Greenspan recently published on his blog private exchanges from 2004 between himself and Zuckerberg.
During their back-and-forth via AOL Instant Messager, Zuck touches on his troubles with fellow classmates Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twins who famously accused the Facebook co-founder of ripping off their social networking concept, ConnectU. The twins brought Zuckerberg to court and were awarded a $65 million settlement in 2008; they continued to appeal the settlement, stopping only at the Supreme Court in 2011, according to Reuters.
Here's what the younger Zuck had to say about the Wiklevii, per Greenspan's IMs:
Zuckerberg then discusses the features of Facebook the Winklevoss twins accused him of stealing. Later in the conversation, Greenspan makes a few interesting comments about intellectual property, while Zuckerberg suggests that creative ideas aren't "really anyone's" and that the Winklevoss twins shouldn't be spreading rumors:
So why are these IMs just coming to light now? Well, according to Business Insider, Greenspan has been trying to prove for years how some of his own ideas were stolen by Zuckerberg. Greenspan also later tried to sue the studio that produced the "The Social Network," a film dramatizing the founding of Facebook, for not including his side of the story.
"It turns out that my 'Other folder' contained some of the most important legal evidence regarding the origins of Facebook, Inc. that I had been trying to find for years, but without much success," Greenspan wrote on his blog. "…[I]t's striking how different the context is between the way these conversations portray the beginning of Facebook, and how the opening scenes of The Social Network portray the beginning of Facebook."
But while these IMs offer an intriguing view into Zuckerberg's younger years, there's no hugely damning evidence against Facebook's CEO. "[T]he biggest crime Zuckerberg seems to have committed is hurting a former friend's feelings," Business Insider notes.
This isn't the first time that Zuckerberg's private messages have been made public. When New York businessman Paul Cegila sued Facebook for part-ownership rights, email correspondences between himself and Zuckerberg were used by the court as evidence. In these messages, Zuckerberg demands money after working with Ceglia on his website, StreetFax.com, and eventually drifts away from Ceglia as he becomes more engrossed in Facebook's development.
What do you think about these new IMs discussing Facebook's founding? Does anything Zuckerberg says surprise you? Sound off in the comments section, or tweet us at [@HuffPostTech]. Then flip through the slideshow below of the six people Zuck burned on his way to the top.
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The Winklevoss Twins
The infamous Winklevoss twins have been giving Mark Zuckerberg grief ever since Facebook's launch back in 2004. The pair and a business partner (more on him later) commissioned Mark Zuckerberg to program a social networking site they had founded called ConnectU, but they later alleged in a lawsuit that Zuckerberg ripped off their idea and launched Thefacebook (later, Facebook) instead. After settling with the company for $65 million in cash and stock, the twins claimed that Facebook misled them about the value of the company's stock. They appealed the settlement <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/16/winklevoss-twins-appeal-denied-circuit-court_n_862758.html" target="_hplink">all the way up to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court</a> -- just one appeal shy of the Supreme Court -- before <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/22/winklevoss-twins-facebook-lawsuit_n_882618.html" target="_hplink">throwing in the towel in June 2011</a>.
Divya Narendra partnered with the Winklevoss twins on their ConnectU project during their time at Harvard. Narendra fought Zuckerberg in court alongside the twins and <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2010/05/21/connectu-co-founder-launches-professional-investment-community-sumzero/" target="_hplink">founded his own investor community, called SumZero,</a> before claiming his share of the $65 million settlement with the social network. A plotline in the film "The Social Network," which dramatized Facebook's founding, portrayed the Harvard students' working relationship and subsequent fallout with Zuckerberg.
Here's another name you probably recognize from "The Social Network." The film portrayed Zuck's deteriorating friendship with Facebook co-founder and fellow Harvard student Eduardo Saverin, culminating in a blatant betrayal on the part of Zuckerberg that ended his working relationship with Saverin. <a href="a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/how-mark-zuckerberg-booted-his-co-founder-out-of-the-company-2012-5?page=1" target="_hplink"" target="_hplink">A new piece by Business Insider indicates</a> that Saverin may not have been as much of a victim. As noted by BI, Zuckerberg planned to cut Saverin out of the company because he had failed to secure funding or set up a business model and had used the social network to run free ads for Joboozle, a side-project Saverin had developed. (<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/how-mark-zuckerberg-booted-his-co-founder-out-of-the-company-2012-5?page=1" target="_hplink">Business Insider also published emails and instant messages</a>, purportedly written by Zuckerberg, that shed light on the methods Zuck used to oust Saverin and dilute his shares in the company.) After a 2009 settlement with Facebook, Saverin retains an <a href="http://www.forbes.com/profile/eduardo-saverin/" target="_hplink">estimated five percent stake in the company</a>. (His original stake was higher than 30 percent.) He recently <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/11/eduardo-saverin-us-citizenship_n_1510099.html" target="_hplink">renounced his U.S. citizenship</a>, presumably to avoid the capital gains taxes on the profit he stands to make off Facebook's imminent IPO.
Napster creator Sean Parker, who also served as Facebook's first president, played a huge role in the development of the social network. <a href="http://nymag.com/news/features/mark-zuckerberg-2012-5/index3.html" target="_hplink">According to Henry Blodget's recent profile of Mark Zuckerberg</a>, Parker was also instrumental in securing Zuck's power over the company. However, <a href="http://nymag.com/news/features/mark-zuckerberg-2012-5/index3.html" target="_hplink">as Blodget explains</a>, despite Parker's contributions, Zuck and the company cut him loose a year after his arrival due to his "<a href="http://nymag.com/news/features/mark-zuckerberg-2012-5/index3.html" target="_hplink">party-boy ways</a>."
Owen Van Natta
Zuckerberg also had a hand in the departure of Owen Van Natta, Facebook's former chief operating officer and the <a href="http://allthingsd.com/20080219/owen-van-natta-to-leave-facebook/" target="_hplink">mind behind big deals</a> like Microsoft's $240 million investment in the social network. "His greatest strength was deal-making, not management," <a href="http://nymag.com/news/features/mark-zuckerberg-2012-5/index3.html " target="_hplink">writes Henry Blodget</a>. "In early 2008, in the wake of the disastrous launch of an advertising product called Beacon, Facebook's senior team determined that the company needed a different kind of executive running the business." <a href="http://allthingsd.com/20080219/owen-van-natta-to-leave-facebook/" target="_hplink">AllThingsD's Kara Swisher notes that</a> Van Natta had long been gunning for a CEO spot, which he was unlikely to find a Facebook. "He has said to me many times that he had been hesitant to come to Facebook then, as he had been looking for a CEO job at the time," wrote Swisher when Van Natta left Facebook.