Having seemingly conquered the realm of social networking, the creator of the popular website thefacebook.com will take at least a semester off to pursue his next online project.
Mark E. Zuckerberg ’06-’07 said he has spent the summer in Palo Alto, Calif., with collaborators working on a new website called Wirehog, a file-sharing site that will be integrated with thefacebook.com. He said he hopes to launch the new site on Aug. 25, although it may be delayed until the first week of September.
“It’s more complicated than most of the stuff I’ve done before, but at the end of the day, the user experience is going to be really simple,” Zuckerberg said.
File sharing was the craze first started by Napster, the software that allowed users to download popular music from other people’s computers.
To help meet the challenge of programming the Wirehog site, Zuckerberg enlisted the help of several friends, including Andrew K. McCollum ’06-’07 and roommate Dustin A. Moskovitz ’06-’07.
To devote time to the development of his two websites, Zuckerberg said he and the other Harvard programmers will withdraw from the College for the fall semester and possibly for the spring as well.
Zuckerberg said his grades suffered while he managed the explosion of thefacebook.com last semester.
“I hope that I wouldn’t have to run two websites and go to school,” Zuckerberg said. “I tried doing that in the spring  term with one website, and that didn’t work out so well.”
Zuckerberg said he did not anticipate being the principal programmer of both Wirehog and thefacebook.com if and when he does return to the College.
He added that when he returns to the College would partially be determined by the popularity of Wirehog; the less popular the site, the more likely his return for the spring semester.
In addition to his work on the new website, Zuckerberg said he also plans to upload an overhaul to thefacebook.com next Thursday or Friday, but declined to discuss specific details.
Napster’s file-sharing service attracted legal troubles because it enabled users to trade copyrighted materials illegally. In 2001, Napster, Inc. offered the recording industry $1 billion to settle copyright infringement lawsuits, and a federal injunction requiring the company to block illegal downloads ultimately crippled the free song-swapping service.
Unlike Napster and other similar programs, Zuckerberg said, Wirehog was not designed to allow for the illegal distribution of copyrighted materials. Rather, he said, he envisioned his site as a venue for friends to upload and share personal files, like pictures.
The Wirehog software will be downloadable to a personal computer from the website www.wirehog.com. When the software is initially launched, it will search the user’s computer and upload certain default files like music to a user’s Wirehog page on the internet, Zuckerberg said. Users will be able choose to upload other files.
“There are privacy preferences so you can specify who gets your stuff on a file-by-file basis,” Zuckerberg said.