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Writing

The Lost Chapter
Recovered conversations from 2004 shine new light on Facebook's origins.

September 19, 2012

Chapter 30: The Other Folder

2003: Cambridge, Massachusetts

In college, my computer's filing system was relatively straightforward: I had a folder for each year of school, and within each of those folders there were additional folders for each course I was taking. For everything else—birthday cards for my family, funny or strange conversations with friends, documents from the College administration, and summer housing—there was the "Other" folder.

So it happened that in my junior year of college, I came across the web site of one of the many finals clubs on campus, the Fly Club. I wasn't even close to being a member of any of the clubs, but the Fly Club was of particular interest because it effectively sat on my front lawn, directly in front of Lowell House, where I'd walk back and forth in front of it to go to class every day, several times a day, without ever having seen the inside. (It's still there.)

At the time, the Fly's web site had a minor glitch. As an exclusive social club open only to the elite of the elite, there wasn't much for the "average" visitor such as myself to do. On the home page, members could sign in, while everyone else could simply stare at a large picture of the building that they were politely denied access to. I wasn't interested in gaining access so much as I was curious why access was denied in the first place. But even the most exclusive buildings have back doors.

Asking my web browser to display the address of the image of the building revealed that it was unsurprisingly in the /images folder. And asking my web browser to see if there was anything else in that folder revealed that there was: a PDF comprising a directory of the Club's still-living members dating back to 1923.

I thought about it for a while, and then decided to e-mail someone I knew in the Club to inform him of the problem and to offer my services in fixing it. He replied thanking me, and that was the last I heard about it. Though I did not deliberately save the PDF to my hard drive at first, eventually I did, afraid that without it, there would be no proof that I had ever found the problem in the first place, should the matter ever come up again. I saved the file to my Other folder, and there it sat for nine years.

2012: Palo Alto, California

Quora is a Silicon Valley startup, founded by Adam D'Angelo and Charlie Cheever, both so-called Facebook veterans (a phrase that actual veterans might find laughable). Adam was Facebook's founding CTO after graduating from CalTech, and Charlie was one of Facebook's early employees after graduating from Harvard. Both are smart, down-to-earth, driven, and relatively quiet guys. Both managed to generate an enormous amount of investor, media, and user interest for Quora, though most of the users today still seem to be confined to Silicon Valley types (which should make it unsurprising that I have an account). And both founders are now at the center of a growing mystery after Adam unilaterally announced on September 11, 2012 that Charlie would no longer be involved in his day-to-day role at the company.

Several articles, none of them particularly insightful, were written about this minor drama. One of them mentioned that while at Harvard, Charlie had been the President of the Fly Club, which got me wondering—was that really true? So I began to think whether I might be able to answer the question for myself without the confounding factors of rumor and speculation. With a few clicks, I decompressed my Other folder from my junior year of college, and found the Fly Club's 2001 PDF. It confirmed that Charlie was indeed a member of the Club in 2001. And then I noticed some other files—several dated files, all ending with "zuckerberg.html."

PDF The Complete Timeline

AIM 20040108.zuckerberg.html
AIM 20040409.zuckerberg.html
AIM 20040420.zuckerberg.html
AIM 20040524.zuckerberg.html
AIM 20040602.zuckerberg.html

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. I had already scoured the folders I created for the Student Entrepreneurship Council and come up with a number of the AOL Instant Messenger conversations that I had with Mark, but not all of them, and not the most revealing ones. I had also checked my "Aaron" folder, which had another sub-folder for Instant Messenger conversations, as well as the large hierarchy of folders containing all of Think Computer Corporation's data, which had even more conversations, but none with Mark. The conversations I remembered having, but could not recall the exact details of, were nowhere to be found, at least until September 12, 2012.

What Mark and I talked about in the months before and after Facebook's launch is remarkably relevant both for its historical and present value. There is almost as much significance in what was not said as what was.

For starters, it'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. Long after Mark's angry blog posts that spawned Facemash, there was no talk of girlfriends or breakups, and no talk of finals clubs (even though one indirectly led me back to the conversations themselves). In other words, as we already knew, Ben Mezrich invented material out of whole cloth for his book (upon which the movie was based), and profited enormously from calling it "non-fiction." He did so mostly at the expense of Mark's high school friend (and later, Quora co-founder) Adam D'Angelo and myself. When the book and then the movie came out, only Adam had Facebook's imprimatur to protect his reputation.

Rather, the real key to Mark's interest in social networking can be found in the first ten lines of our first conversation: AIM screennames. Using Adam's BuddyZoo, which allowed users to determine their connections to other AIM users, Mark determined the shortest path between his screenname and mine. But we each independently realized that AIM was startlingly deficient insofar as the software encouraged users to customize their profiles, and then limited them from doing so. There was far more potential than what AIM allowed in its small text box, which is why I had immediately added an AIM screenname field to my Facebook along with a field for cell phone number, and Mark was thinking about building the exact same thing—only with Adam's BuddyZoo built in.

It's also remarkable just how close Mark and I seemed at the beginning, even after just meeting each other, which might help explain why I felt so deeply wounded in the ensuing months and years. Mark repeatedly requested, and I repeatedly offered, help with his (and even Adam's) project; after all, he didn't know much about computer hardware, and he knew almost nothing about business or legal matters. This is not to say that he wasn't smart, because he was certainly a quick learner. Yet almost from the outset, despite acting in an otherwise friendly manner, Mark determined not that he wanted to help me in return, but that he wanted to compete with me.

Serious competition between friends, in my experience, never works well, and always ends badly. Someone is bound to get hurt. In this case that person was obviously me. Mark's brand of competition, though, was more pernicious than your average sort. Rather than building a site with the same functionality as the houseSYSTEM Facebook, he built a site with the same functionality as the houseSYSTEM Facebook (as he himself admitted) that he called, without ever informing me of his intent to do so, The Facebook. It wasn't "Mark's Facebook." It wasn't "A Facebook." It was "The Facebook." As the operator of another product that people were already calling the exact same thing, that automatically put me on the defensive, because his choice of a generic name necessarily implied uniqueness and stature. His eagerness to take his work to The Crimson to be broadcast campuswide, made this seemingly minor problem a major one, especially when other campus newspapers nationwide, and then mainstream newspapers, picked up the story.

For a college student in 2003, I understood an awful lot about trademarks, including the general reasons why one could not trademark a generic term. I had spent five years fighting two companies over the right to name my company Think Computer—a battle I eventually won in 2004. But it came at a great expense in terms of both time and money, and I was shocked that Mark would trample on the name of someone he had just met in the dining hall over dinner three days before. It was an expense I simply could not afford all over again (unlike the Winklevoss twins, my father did not have millions of dollars of disposable income), besides which I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of getting into a legal battle with another student who apparently looked up to me and sat next to me in a Computer Science independent study. So I asked Mark about it after class one day. He denied doing anything wrong, acting wounded by the question instead. Either he was faking it, or he truly didn't understand what he was doing. Perhaps it was a little of both.

It had already been clear from our first bite of rubber chicken in Kirkland House that there were a lot of things Mark didn't understand, aside from intellectual property. He didn't understand how to speak like a mature person his age. He didn't understand why his earlier creation, Facemash, might have offended people (including me). He didn't really understand why anyone would be interested in a site as useful as houseSYSTEM. And he shockingly did not understand why information privacy might be a controversial issue. As Facebook's routine privacy scandals aptly demonstrate, he still doesn't. While it is true that all of these traits were crucial to Facebook's rise, it's equally true that they have hastened its descent immensely.

Thus began our awkward friendship, where the same person who said he was impressed by and encouraging of my work also simultaneously admitted that he was setting out to destroy it. In one particularly brazen act of ironic condescension, Mark expressed concern that people might be confused by the similarities between the sites. Mark didn't admit everything, though, and in some cases he outright lied or changed his mind without bothering to inform me, even while we were clearly still in touch.

At dinner on January 8th, for example, Mark said that he did not intend to start a company. With 20/20 hindsight, this obviously would appear to be a lie, but I believed it at the time, and it made Mark's inquisitive nature far less threatening. Of Mark's three previous endeavors, Synapse, Facemash and CourseMatch, none had been companies. And my job running an entrepreneurship club, after all, was to help future entrepreneurs. On the other hand, Mark had already been lying to the Winklevoss twins for weeks by that point, stringing them along completely deliberately, and eventually telling Adam, "Yeah, I'm going to fuck them, [p]robably in the []ear." He had been searching the houseSYSTEM Facebook for the twins' profiles, but Mark never mentioned the Winklevosses or Harvard Connection to me until May 24, 2004. I had no knowledge of this whatsoever, though, so my trusting him and offering to help was not unreasonable.

Mark's deception did not stop at the issue of whether his project was for profit. He gave me an ultimatum: I could compete with his "souped of [sic] version of one thing housesystem does," or I could help him but relinquish control of software I started writing long before him. As he said, "[I] guess the basic jist is that [I] feel as if it may compete with the facebook you're trying to implement." Not to mention that I would be stepping into the middle of a legal battle (as a defendant) I didn't yet know existed, even though he clearly did. He never followed up on my proposal to integrate his work with houseSYSTEM, though he said he would. He specifically said that he did not want to take outside investment for the project, and failed to inform me when he decided to change his mind, to the tune of $500,000 and then $12.7 million. He didn't even mention that he was moving to California for the summer to work on his Facebook, even though he was clearly interested in my own summer plans. And by the time I had given up on competing with The Crimson's slanted press coverage of Facebook and asked Mark for a job, his answer was that suddenly, I didn't have enough technical experience, even though Dustin Moskovitz at the time had zero.

As for the "bunch of cool features which [I] don't think [I] should really mention right now," Mark was ultimately referring to the same cool features I had built into houseSYSTEM that he had just told me were "too useful." Aside from the Facebook, the sites had overlapping features for course schedulers, photo albums, message boards, digital posters for student groups, and eventually exchanges for buying and selling on campus and mapping your network of friends.

Mark, of course, could not bear to acknowledge that he had been inspired by anyone else, let alone that he directly copied other people's work. On October 26, 2005, when asked to describe how The Facebook came to be by Jim Breyer, the Accel Partners venture capitalist who handed him $12.7 million, he stated in public at Stanford University while being videotaped, "So, um, I did two years at Harvard. During my sophomore year, I decided that Harvard needed a Facebook. It didn't have one. So I made it. That's basically how it got started." To say that his answer was smug and disingenous would be a gross understatement. By that point, Mark and I had talked over AOL Instant Messenger only two months prior. It was our last recorded conversation.

To be clear, this is how Mark handled his friendship not with opportunistic athletes he despised, but with one of the two other technical people on the planet he thought of as being on the same level as himself as of June, 2004. As he bluntly put it, "[T]here are only like six people in the world who have decent ideas... Seriously. [T]here's only six. I'm telling you... [I] still need to meet the other three though... I'd like to think [I]'m okay. You're good. [T]here's this kid out in caltech who's sick and that's like it for people in college right now."

In my opinion, this glaring inconsistency is a hallmark of true pathology. How can I be so sure? That kid at CalTech was Adam D'Angelo, and we saw almost exactly the same thing happen to him four years later.

Adam can correct me if I'm wrong (though he may now be contractually prohibited from doing so), but his departure from Facebook was reminiscent of the situation with houseSYSTEM. Adam and Mark were close friends, by then even working toward a common goal for the same company—their own—which had earned them both plenty of money. Adam wanted to work on a feature set involving questions, and Mark apparently wanted to do it a different way. They decided to part ways, giving rise to Quora, at which point Mark decided not to do the obvious thing and focus on Facebook's social networking features and out-of-control platform, but to actually compete with Quora! Fortunately for Adam, Facebook Questions was a dud.

Perhaps the lesson here is that competing with and using your "friends" in serial fashion until you totally and completely ravage each relationship is key to achieving financial success—but then it's certainly no way to define friendship. As a practice it's wrong, and it is in many cases illegal, easily violating state unfair business practices statutes in addition to qualifying as outright fraud. (In Massachusetts, fraud means making a false representation with the intent to deceive, and another person acting on that representation to their detriment.) It's also worth noting that it comes at a real economic price: Adam, Chris, Dustin and Eduardo are all smart people who no longer contribute to making Facebook better. Even Mark's own sister Randi (who, like her brother, also craves the spotlight), now works at Google. And thanks to Mark's approach, I never officially worked for the company at all, despite his explicit statements that he thought my contributions would have been valuable.

The icing on the cake is that for a period of years, from roughly 2008-2011, Mark lived exactly one block away from me in College Terrace, a quiet neighborhood in Palo Alto, after Facebook's headquarters moved from the downtown area to Stanford Research Park. It wouldn't have been difficult for him to stop by and apologize for any misunderstanding. It wouldn't have been too hard to find my address, either—it was on my company's web site, which he was obviously familiar with ("[I] can tell because thinkcomputer.com gives a javascript syntax error under ie haha"), and it was on every legal document that Facebook, Inc. received as I fought with the company before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Not to mention the several times we crossed paths, either when he walked in front of my house, or was walking to his, or sitting down for Mexican food at Palo Alto Sol. I got a grin and a wave, but an apology never came. There was no remorse.

For the shareholder today who owns common shares of Facebook, Inc. the financial side effects of Mark's modus operandi should be setting off alarm bells, and loud ones at that. There was a time not too long ago when people believed that Mark Zuckerberg's "genius" alone would be enough to propel Facebook, Inc. to the top of the technology industry. Now that the company has lost something like $70 billion of shareholder wealth in a matter of months, making its IPO the worst on record according to Bloomberg, it's clear that the "genius" label is exactly the kind of empty hype that Mark specifically calculated would be necessary to launch his endeavor in the first place when he said, "[I] think it requires some hype."

The press deserves a collective slap across the face for its eagerness in fueling that hype, starting with the smug and obnoxious editors at The Harvard Crimson. Crimson editors presided over and directly encouraged the site's early growth without disclosing their connections to the founders; failed to report on Mark's illegal activity breaking into Crimson e-mail accounts when he was concerned about his portrayal relative to the Winklevosses; and denied houseSYSTEM any positive news coverage for months.

That Mark violated federal law by breaking into private e-mail accounts is incontrovertible. Very likely around May 24, 2004, the same time that he asked me "[H]ow do you get on newstalk?" referring to The Crimson's internal e-mail list, he asked another friend, almost certainly Adam D'Angelo, the same question according to Business Insider. "Crimson has this internal email list [w]here they just like gossip about everyone. So I want to read what they said about me before the article came out and after I complained. So I'm just like trying the email/passwords of everyone who put that they're in the Crimson. I wonder if the school tracks stuff like that."

"Did you get in?" the friend asked.

"To 2," Mark replied. Somehow, The Crimson never bothered to report it.

Nor has any other major newspaper, indicative of the fact that the rest of the news media has hardly done any better providing objective coverage of Mark and Facebook. Virtually every reporter writing about technology from 2004 through the present failed to do any original research into Facebook's origins or its ongoing operations. Without exception, every major media outlet in the country shirked its duties on fact-checking, with some reporters, such as Leslie Stahl, being either too starstruck or too scared of losing access to ask difficult questions. Her producer at CBS, Shachar Bar-On, was in touch with me before both 60 Minutes segments he produced about Facebook. Both times he assured me that a level-headed point of view would make its way into the segment. Both times he lied.

In some cases, the media ran articles that editors and reporters knew or should have known to be of questionable veracity. David Kirkpatrick, who enjoyed unprecedented access to Mark for his glowing and absurd shill The Facebook Effect, wrote a puff piece full of hype, lies and speculation for The Washington Post, whose CEO, Donald Graham, sits on Facebook's Board of Directors. (In return, The Washington Post appointed Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg's husband to its own Board of Directors just last week.) GQ reporter Alex French interviewed me for a full week in 2007 insisting that he wanted to write the true story behind the site, and then changed his mind at the last minute and turned the piece into a profile of Mark, leaving me to pay my own fare to JFK since his magazine was therefore unable to process the reimbursement for the ride he insisted I take. They're hardly alone. Rolling Stone, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and others have been no better. Only one reporter, John Markoff at The New York Times, was willing to write a story based on verifiable fact when no one else would. Mark's response to that story, issued through a spokesperson, was that he was "not sure how to respond."

By the same standard, the venture capital community deserves an outright kick in the ribs. Institutional investors made the mistake—again, and again, and again—of validating Mark's duplicitousness by pouring literally billions of dollars into his company, and then billions more into startups seeking to emulate it. Some of their investments created out of thin air industries that contribute absolutely nothing to, and in many cases even detract from, society. The perpetual scam machine that is Zynga could not have ever existed without Facebook. Nor did the 783rd social network to receive institutional funding make anyone's life more efficient or enjoyable. Most mind-boggling of all, it's been clear for a long time that Mark's "social" business model doesn't work anyway: venture capital returns are down, and not just a little bit. Meanwhile, the opportunity cost to society is enormous: with engineers and capital allocated to virtual-sheep-throwing, worthless advertising and sharing ad nasuem, almost a decade's worth of real innovations got the short end of the stick, including but not limited to mine.

To his credit, Mark gave back to society with a sizeable donation to the Newark schools, which are badly in need of funding. Conveniently, the donation made news just days before The Social Network was about to tarnish his image in October, 2010. (Facebook's public relations machine knows how to time a news release; my settlement was announced the Saturday of Labor Day weekend in 2009, around 2:00 A.M. Eastern Time.) Still more conveniently, the grant to Newark was made in shares of stock—not cash—and there hasn't been news of another donation since.

Mark is no genius. He's your common, everyday megalomaniac, incapable of empathizing with those he repeatedly draws in close and then hurts. He may, in fact, be the greatest con of all time, having effectively convinced an entire nation, including the President of the United States, to believe in his extremist philosophy of radical openness. His next trick, which will have to be executed to Wall Street's satisfaction, will be finding the intersection between advertising (commerce) and friendship (the opposite of commerce). If it seems to have gotten off to a rocky start—remember Facebook Beacon?—it may be because the so-called philosophy and vision it's based on is utter garbage.

It's hard to imagine how a company could survive, let alone thrive in the long term, with such a destructive force at its helm and no actual business plan. No buzzword—not "mobile," not "search," not anything—can save such an enterprise. What does matter is that if Adam and I are any indication, Mark respects no one but himself. To him, the Board of Directors is dirt, the preferred shareholders are dirt, and the common shareholders are less than dirt, and the site's actual users are "dumb fucks." The Facebook stock ownership structure reflects this arrangement with abundant clarity. To Mark, technical experts and advisors are replaceable, and friends are those people you replace. Money, of course, is not the object of the game. Just power. As Mark told one of his colleagues according to Business Insider, the point of getting rid of Eduardo was that, "After this I have control."

What Mark did to me by acting in a deceptive manner and then completely withdrawing his support almost completely ruined my career. Concrete job offers evaporated while prospective investors turned away. Meanwhile, a growing arsenal of Facebook's intellectual property—which in 2004 Mark himself argued belonged to no one, least of all him, when he said "it isn't really anyone's"—prohibited me from working on some of the very same concepts and using the same terms I had been working on all along. I've continued to spar with Facebook's lawyers over their bogus trademark rights even to this day. Apparently, Mark now thinks that he owns the words "face" and "book." I disagree.

To the extent that companies are able to thrive under such pernicious leaders, many of whom pay themselves exorbitant sums of money, they should be prohibited from doing so. It's remarkable that after Enron, Worldcom, Arthur Andersen and myriad minor corporate scandals, the Securities and Exchange Commission does not do background checks and character assessments on executives of publicly traded corporations. What could be more important to protecting "shareholder value?"

Still, other laws do require checks, at least in theory. They're just never enforced. California Financial Code § 2033(b)(2) deals with licenses for money transmission, which should only be granted if "[t]he applicant, the directors and officers of the applicant, any person that controls the applicant, and the directors and officers of any person that controls the applicant are of good character and sound financial standing." Here, the "good character" requirement would clearly preclude Mark, whose character has now been called into question more times than most of us can count. Yet the California Department of Financial Institutions granted Facebook Payments, Inc. a license in record time—only a few months—violating its own statutory obligations, after Mark had been operating his Facebook Credits system illegally without a license for almost a year. Good character, indeed.

It's a shame that it turned out this way for me, for Facebook's members, and for its shareholders, who collectively lost tens of billions (and should be asking themselves what material information Mark is still withholding from them). But thanks to Mark, it did turn out this way, and now the class-action lawsuits are going full steam ahead. I only wish that what he said regarding lawyers on March 5, 2004 was true:

"[Y]ou're like the guy who knows how to deal with this stuff. [O]ne day we won't have to, and that will be awesome."

Perhaps I should have known better, but I never had the full picture, and Mark's lawyers fought hard to keep it that way. Clearly failing to appreciate the legal concept of mens rea, Mark told his colleague, "Haha man come on. You can be unethical and still be legal[;] that's the way I live my life." All I got to hear was the more soothing version.

"[O]h well, there are no school newspapers and ad boards after you graduate. [O]nly the [N]ew [Y]ork [T]imes and federal courts. [H]aha."


Update 1: Business Insider reporters Nicholas Carlson and Alyson Shontell have an interesting way of editing quotes. I spoke to them about this essay this morning. I said this:

"It's not just me, it's not just the Winklevosses, it's not just Adam, not just Eduardo. It happened a lot and that makes me concerned for anyone who would trust their retirement savings to him. Aside from that, he admits that it's based on houseSYSTEM. It's pretty plain. And I've spent the past decade trying to convince people of that so I can get my own career started, and it's been pretty difficult."

Here is how they edited the quote to fit their headline, "A GRUDGE 8 YEARS IN THE MAKING: The Story Behind Aaron Greenspan's Alleged New Zuckerberg IMs":

"It's not just me, it's not just the Winklevoss', it happen a lot...Facebook is based on HouseSYSTEMS and I've spent the past decade trying to convince people of that so I can get my own career started and it's been pretty difficult."

See what's missing (the bold parts)?

Furthermore, Alyson's first reaction to this essay was, "Um, holy crap. Very." So apparently this morning she understood why someone might be upset over the its contents.

When I asked them why the IMs are referred to as "alleged," Nick replied, "It's a legal issue." I bet it is.

Update 2: Alyson has replied, "So sorry about that, I'll update the full quote ASAP thanks for the correction." Presumably, I will remain angry at the world. Rar!

Aaron Greenspan is the CEO of Think Computer Corporation and author of Authoritas: One Student's Harvard Admissions and the Founding of the Facebook Era. He is the creator of the FaceCash mobile payment system, ThinkLink business management system, and PlainSite legal transparency project.

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1

Gerry Power (http://www.artshapes.net)
September 19, 2012 at 6:55 PM DT

Why are there no comments to this fascinating blog when it's linked to from Techmeme? Let the people speak. The truth will out.


2

Case
September 19, 2012 at 8:13 PM DT

Great read. Good luck to you & thank you for sharing your truth.


3

Max
September 19, 2012 at 8:55 PM DT

> That Mark violated federal law by breaking into private e-mail accounts is incontrovertible. Very likely around May 24, 2012, the same time that he asked me "[H]ow do you get on newstalk?

I think that should be May 24, 2004


4

Aaron Greenspan (http://www.aarongreenspan.com)
September 19, 2012 at 9:30 PM DT

Max,

Thanks for the correction. It should be fixed now!

Aaron


5

fredfredrickson@mailinator.com
September 19, 2012 at 9:53 PM DT

Hm... your company's website had me interested!

"Think is hiring talented software developers..."

Oh, ok. Let's click the link for more info.

"Sorry, we are not currently hiring."


You should make up your mind; it will help people to like your company more.


6

fredfredrickson@mailinator.com
September 19, 2012 at 9:54 PM DT

But, thank you for writing this post. It was very interesting, and a good read.


7

ak
September 19, 2012 at 10:15 PM DT

thanks for putting together a detailed timeline. Apart from understanding the many details of the origins of fb your essay is going to help a lot of folks that would love to learn from history. Makes me realize the importance of keeping a record of comm to keep things straight and get you out the mess if you ever run into one. Best


8

Simit Patel (http://www.informedtrades.com)
September 19, 2012 at 10:28 PM DT

hi aaron, i don't know if what you are saying is true or not, since i'm a total outsider. however i just wanted to say that you are an outstanding writer and communicator. from a purely literary perspective, this is an excellent essay. i appreciate that.


9

Beshir
September 19, 2012 at 10:46 PM DT

Long read but totally worth it. Even though everything might not be true over here, It changed my view against FB. Everything worth money is sold nowadays including friendships. I feel really sad for you being a CS engy myself. Try to put yourself back together and may you have a successful carear from now on...


10

MV
September 20, 2012 at 12:21 AM DT

Great read. It's a shame it took a god awful IPO for most people to realize what a self serving, egotistical prick Zuckerberg is.

And they're still trying to blame the whole bungle on NASDAQ. Hahahaha, ha.


11

Sam Jackson (http://samjackson.org)
September 20, 2012 at 12:59 AM DT

As I've said in the past, thanks for sharing some interesting documents and above all, perspective. You are not the first, and sadly not the last, to find the whole truth a casualty of history - and all while being caught up in it. There's an important context behind every story and it gets muddled by the 'official narrative' in ways that are hard to rectify. (Case in point, the pre-Harvard elements of 'a' / 'the' Facebook: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/mark_zuckerberg_inspiration_for_facebook_before_harvard.php - and here the story gets understated.)

Additionally, kudos on the organizational structure - I used the same filing schema in school, though to my knowledge it didn't / doesn't contain any such informative documents. I do have a recording of Mark Zuckerberg giving a talk at Exeter (2007?) which was interesting, and unpublished, but it's mostly the same as his stuff at Davos, so struck out again there...

(I'm assuming there's a big backlog of comments yet to be approved, but... here goes!)


12

Jordan Arseno (http://jordanarseno.com)
September 20, 2012 at 2:09 AM DT

Right down to the HTTP requests - this an absolutely fantastic historical account.


13

WordBiLLY (http://www.WordBiLLY.com)
September 20, 2012 at 4:23 AM DT

We at WordBiLLY find these developments quite interesting.
We are also a couple of college students bootstrapping our startup the AirBNB cereal box way via WordBiLLY.com, crafting the made-in-the-USA BiLLY pieces ourselves. We've also been accepting custom orders on our site and suggest a Twitter handle BiLLY perhaps.
And what is a BiLLY you ask? We say: Find out at WordBiLLY.com

We greatly support any and all support.
Thank you Guys and Gals.


14

k0de
September 20, 2012 at 4:31 AM DT

Aaron you sir are a hero keep up the great work and don't let this shit get you down.


15

Ken
September 20, 2012 at 9:46 AM DT

Randi doesn't work at Google. It's Arielle Zuckerberg that works at Google (via the acquisition of the company she worked for). I believe Randi is running her own startup for the past year or so.


16

christopher james churchill (http://theundergroundinternet.wordpress.com)
September 20, 2012 at 11:05 AM DT

I've reposted this to my blog hope you don't mind.
This was one of the best reads I've had in years, the truth will set us free...
keep up the stunning work Aaron you are an inspiration to us all, don't bow down in the face of injustice...
Keep going and the ipo will just keep dropping:P


17

Winston Smith
September 20, 2012 at 3:45 PM DT

Totally agree with the point you made re: the media coverage of FB and its tech siblings. A lot of the journos who cover tech self-select because they think it's a "hot" industry that will propel their career rather than because they have any direct personal tech education, skills, or experience to act as a lens through which to view/filter what they are told by the company, industry "experts", etc. In other words, many tech writers are boneheads who just regurgitate the official company/PR line without applying any independent analysis or judgment. If the monkey say FB is hot, then the other monkeys report is as being hot.

One other point and that is that VC's, other investors, and company founders are all massive hucksters. The vast majority don't care about changing the world--they care about cashing-in. I've seen it from the inside in multiple firms in SiliValley over the years, including during the great DotCom Gold Rush of the mid/late-1990's. And while many founders start off with integrity and fidelity to their concept/product/company, once the money men get involved, the landscape and the pressures change enormously. Developing a product/service is a lot different than bringing it to market, scaling-up operations, and surviving over the long haul. At some point, it becomes easier to surrender, sell out, and cash in than to stay true. This happened during DotCom I, and it's happening again during DotCom II. A jillion people who had no deep and abiding personal interest in tech showed-up in DotCom I because it seemed a quick path to riches (and fame). And the same thing is happening all over again right now. At the end of the day, what's going on in tech is just another get-rich-quick scheme and not much different than flipping houses, slicing/dicing/repackaging crappy mortgages and selling them as investment vehicles, or a thousand other low-rent, slimy ways to make money. I'm glad FB stock has taken a massive dump because it's exactly what I thought would happen. FB is not only a dog--it's a dog with fleas.


18

Winston Smith
September 20, 2012 at 3:45 PM DT

Totally agree with the point you made re: the media coverage of FB and its tech siblings. A lot of the journos who cover tech self-select because they think it's a "hot" industry that will propel their career rather than because they have any direct personal tech education, skills, or experience to act as a lens through which to view/filter what they are told by the company, industry "experts", etc. In other words, many tech writers are boneheads who just regurgitate the official company/PR line without applying any independent analysis or judgment. If the monkey say FB is hot, then the other monkeys report is as being hot.

One other point and that is that VC's, other investors, and company founders are all massive hucksters. The vast majority don't care about changing the world--they care about cashing-in. I've seen it from the inside in multiple firms in SiliValley over the years, including during the great DotCom Gold Rush of the mid/late-1990's. And while many founders start off with integrity and fidelity to their concept/product/company, once the money men get involved, the landscape and the pressures change enormously. Developing a product/service is a lot different than bringing it to market, scaling-up operations, and surviving over the long haul. At some point, it becomes easier to surrender, sell out, and cash in than to stay true. This happened during DotCom I, and it's happening again during DotCom II. A jillion people who had no deep and abiding personal interest in tech showed-up in DotCom I because it seemed a quick path to riches (and fame). And the same thing is happening all over again right now. At the end of the day, what's going on in tech is just another get-rich-quick scheme and not much different than flipping houses, slicing/dicing/repackaging crappy mortgages and selling them as investment vehicles, or a thousand other low-rent, slimy ways to make money. I'm glad FB stock has taken a massive dump because it's exactly what I thought would happen. FB is not only a dog--it's a dog with fleas.


19

Alex
September 20, 2012 at 3:53 PM DT

It's time:


Hi Alexis,

We have received a request to permanently delete your account. Your account has been deactivated from the site and will be permanently deleted within 14 days.

If you did not request to permanently delete your account, please login to Facebook to cancel this request:

https://www.facebook.com/login.php


Thanks,
The Facebook Team


20

robin
September 20, 2012 at 4:27 PM DT

Hi Robin,

We have received a request to permanently delete your account. Your account has been deactivated from the site and will be permanently deleted within 14 days.

If you did not request to permanently delete your account, please login to Facebook to cancel this request:

https://www.facebook.com/login.php


Thanks,
The Facebook Team


21

Mariposa
September 21, 2012 at 2:10 AM DT

Needless to say there is numerous eronious acts of deceit and deception in reguard to Marks behavior, acts, and deeds. I empathsize your personal injustice and betrayal of a 'friend' turned betrayer. I am enchanted with your truth, your envisionment, as well as your pusuit to see that you are heard. Where many words of the past may still haunt us; you are still driven to see it through. Let's face it, Mark is a smuck and should not have been allowed his glorious 'free ticket' to the top. However, Mark himself was not totally at fault. He may be a wolf in sheeps clothing, but he's still a wolf. He went along with the hype, mass media, and the investors who never really second guessed this 'golden child' of The FaceBook. The truth IS out there and it may very well come back to bit him in the rear sooner than he expects. But for now, it's more comparative to Alice and the Looking Glass to most people. Personally, I would never trample my way to the top. It has to be lonely there and you can't really buy friendship. Sure-he probably has thousands of glossy eyed young people over 'Mark and FaceBook'. But think about it-he constantly has to keep looking over his shoulder, has to tape record, copy, keep and file every conversation, every paper, etc just to keep track with his version of the truth. I say you are well versed, well educated, you did not have to scam anyone around you. You seem to be humble about the entire situation. You may not be where you wanted to be at this point in your life-but you are getting there, and the only way is up from here. Thank you for sharing a chapter in your life with us. I wish you only the best of what life has to offer you.


22

Chris (http://www.ranklocal.com)
September 21, 2012 at 11:38 AM DT

Aaron,

I question if I was really one of the few to see that Facebook stock would tank. I also question why those in the media who were in the know were hesitant to make a call. I told everyone I knew that they could buy first day and sell for a quick profit but that they shouldn't hold on to the stock for a long term gain. I think that if you want to buy, wait until it bottoms, then go long.

Only when they figure out their business model do they have a great opportunity to become a true power house. Why would anyone hold on to a company that basically has no long term plan in place? In the evolution of a business, Facebook is still extremely young and has yet to find its way.

To success,

Chris


23

Gaurav
September 21, 2012 at 8:22 PM DT

What an interesting read!

Ironical but I am sharing this on Facebook and twitter.


24

Omar
September 22, 2012 at 6:57 PM DT

It's really great to read how he had absolute genuine ideas from the very start, and how he had the clear vision of Facebook.Also "haven't ate for 24 hrs" shows how much dedicated he truly is.

It's amazing that he's the one whose now on Forbes,and one of the richest person,just by executing the very original ideas he had.

Great Read! : -)


25

Matt
September 26, 2012 at 11:28 PM DT

Fantastic read - I'm curious to find out more about how you dealt with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. I see them as being nothing but a barrier to entry to most industries. Any thoughts as to how to get a trademark through?


26

Aaron Greenspan (http://www.aarongreenspan.com)
September 27, 2012 at 4:04 AM DT

Matt,

The trademark issues I dealt with from roughly 2000-2008 can be found here:

http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?pno=91125553&pty=OPP

The current Facebook trademark issues can be found here:

http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?pno=91198355&pty=OPP

Getting a trademark through the USPTO is relatively cheap and painless. Patents are a different story.

Aaron


27

YouTube's Actual Inventor
October 3, 2012 at 6:34 AM DT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b24Npn8Y6qg


28

YouTube's Actual Inventor
October 3, 2012 at 6:36 AM DT

Wow, Omar can really suck ass or what?


29

boethius
October 26, 2012 at 8:54 PM DT

This post is a hyper-analysis of the man and every detail of the past, examining and intertwining motives, personality, and statements made flippantly and off-the-cuff by a rather young and inexperienced group of students yet we now have the luxury of setting them today into the framework of some kind of masterful conspiracy that could have anticipated the success of Facebook and anticipated and called into question every word, every email, every IM, and every conversation that occurred in the early days.

This seems a rather silly and ultimately baseless ploy to me. End of the day maybe Mark just got lucky. What impediments existed for you or the Winklevii from creating something better? I doubt Mark's lies or thievery did, unless your present-day indignant tirade serves just as well as any impediment. He didn't have you in an NDA or non-compete, did he? Indeed I suspect someone, somewhere is creating a better mousetrap. Maybe in 5 or 10 years FB will be a Myspace-like shadow of its former self because someone else doesn't see those same artificial impediments.

If you honestly believe that thievery or "idea-stealing" is enough to kill your own idea, business, etc. then look at any product made by Apple. It was just over a decade ago most of us were dancing on Apple's grave. Now it's the most valuable company in human history, worth more than most world governments. Heck at one time it had more cash on it accounts than the U.S. Government did. Microsoft "should" have won by now, but it didn't. Apple ultimately out-maneuvered its competition and it did so quite dramatically.

One could argue Zuckerberg seemed savvy / smart / sociopathic enough to lie, cheat, and steal his way to the top, but on the other hand while others had the same or better ideas first and others may very well have had the same or very similar services to TheFacebook (e.g., ConnectU, BuddyZoo, houseSystem, etc.) ultimately his version of the same idea won out, like it or not. If he took/stole someone's "great idea" it's basically so much sour grapes. If he won and you didn't, really - so what? Nothing wrong I suppose with venting your frustration - had I been in the same position I probably would be venting too - but time and life marches on.

I'm starting to passionately despise Intellectual Property and anything around it. Your blog post gives me further grist for the mill. Ideas are worthless. Execution is everything. Sorkin got it right: "If you had invented Facebook you would have invented Facebook."

Go make and/or do something better - and best of luck doing it.


30

jw kramlinger
October 27, 2012 at 12:55 AM DT

haha.
boethius
dont hate. free country son. mark is kinda shady. thats all hes saying.

maybe contemplating on something ahead of old mark.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOFi-KngMyU


31

Victor
November 20, 2012 at 2:18 AM ST

I am 18 years old, and let me tell you, you are a great, great communicator. Also, I have been following your work for a long time, and read your book. I believe your ideas are priceless, and that everybody a little bit interested pretty much in any topic should follow your blog and read your articles.

From here, I tell you to not back down, to not give in, to keep working and delivering your ideas and thoughts to the world. I know it's hard sometimes, specially with the power media has, but you should never give in, you proclaim the truth, and as Thoreau once said: "Rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness... Give me truth". Truth is what you deliver in these pages.

Thank you very much,
Victor.


32

Johnny (http://SpyrlGames.com)
July 6, 2013 at 12:21 AM DT

Definitely an interesting read, well written.

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