UPDATED: Feb. 4, 2014, at 1:25 a.m.
Before Facebook swept the globe and attracted more than one billion users, it got its start in a Kirkland House dorm room on Feb. 4, 2004 as an internal directory for Harvard undergraduates, running on a single server at a cost of $85 per month.
A lot has changed in 10 years. Today, the site that was started as an internal social network for Harvard students is accessible to anyone with an internet connection. It trades at more than $61 per share on the NASDAQ stock market. Its founder, Mark E. Zuckerberg, formerly of the Class of 2006, is thought to be worth nearly $30 billion.
While today’s Facebook experience may revolve around status updates, news feeds, and photos, the networking site that exploded on Harvard’s campus a decade ago offered undergraduates just a few basic functions. Still, looking back on the site’s earliest days, its first users, Harvard undergraduates, say that adding friends, finding classmates, and ‘poking’ fellow users was enough to completely upturn social interactions on campus.
“It felt like within the first month or so everyone was on it, at some point,” said Chad Brown ‘07, recalling the many conversations about thefacebook he overheard in Harvard dining halls during the spring of 2004. “It was something that people talked about a lot.”
From the beginning, Harvard was hooked.
FROM FACEMASH TO FACEBOOK
The concept of an online collection of faces and biographical information was nothing new for Harvard students. While there existed a searchable directory for the freshman class, the rest of the College was organized by House, and each maintained a separate, and often restricted, rolodex of faces and phone numbers, as well as a print edition.
“Everybody wanted access to a face book for upperclassmen,” said Connie Zong ‘06, a member of Zuckerberg’s class year.
In October of his sophomore year, Zuckerberg himself had entered the social fray by launching facemash, a short-lived site that asked users to choose the more attractive of two Harvard student identification photos, which had been lifted from individual House directories.
The site attracted the ire of numerous student groups across campus, more than 20,000 hits in 24 hours online, and the attention of the College’s Administrative Board. Zuckerberg quickly apologized, both in an interview with The Crimson and in numerous letters to campus groups.