The site's first iteration appeared in 2003. Zuckerberg hacked into Harvard’s student directory and aggregated profiles on a platform called “Facemash,” which allowed users to vote on which female undergraduates were most attractive. The site drew the ire of school administrators and was quickly taken offline.
In early 2004, Zuckerberg partnered with three other Harvard students, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin, to launch thefacebook.com, the earliest iteration of the social media site as it exists today. Originally intended as a platform for Harvard students only, the site quickly amassed hundreds of users and expanded to other universities.
Later that year, Zuckerberg and his co-founders relocated Facebook operations to Palo Alto, California.
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Facebook’s early success was not without obstacles. In 2004, three Harvard upperclassmen, Divya Narendra and twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, accused Zuckerberg of stealing the idea for the website. The two sides settled out of court after a protracted legal battle.
Zuckerberg’s relationship with Saverin, his co-founder and earliest investor, also soured. Saverin left Facebook in 2005 after a dispute in which he claimed Zuckerberg conspired to dilute his share in the company. After a lengthy court battle, the two sides reached an undisclosed settlement in 2009.
The legal trouble did little to slow Facebook’s success. The company went public in 2012 and experienced steady growth in the years since, building a base of more than two billion users around the world.
In recent years, Facebook has faced mounting criticism over its data privacy practices and regulatory scrutiny from antitrust officials.
The creation of Facebook was later dramatized in the 2010 film “The Social Network.” Famed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin wrote the movie, while actor Jesse Eisenberg played Zuckerberg.
As of Friday, Facebook had a market capitalization of more than $680 billion. Zuckerberg had a personal net worth of $87.9 billion.