Facebook's origin is mired in controversy. The Winklevoss Twins have long claimed that Harvard University dropout Mark Zuckerberg stole their idea; Mark has always claimed he was working on "TheFacebook" before the school seniors ever asked him to code their dating site.
Eight years later, some telling instant messaging conversations have been leaked, preserved by the courts due to lawsuits. One is a chat between a 19-year-old Zuck and Adam D'Angelo, the first Facebook chief technology officer (he left in 2008 to co-found Quora). Through the dialogue, you catch a glimpse of Mark's internal debate - does he build the Winklevoss' dating site or focus on TheFacebook?
Zuckerberg: So you know how I'm making that dating site
Zuckerberg: I wonder how similar that is to the Facebook thing
Zuckerberg: Because they're probably going to be released around the same time
Zuckerberg: Unless I fuck the dating site people over and quit on them right before I told them I'd have it done.
Zuckerberg: Like I don't think people would sign up for the facebook thing if they knew it was for dating
Zuckerberg: and I think people are skeptical about joining dating things too.
Zuckerberg: But the guy doing the dating thing is going to promote it pretty well.
Zuckerberg: I wonder what the ideal solution is.
Zuckerberg: I think the Facebook thing by itself would draw many people, unless it were released at the same time as the dating thing.
Zuckerberg: In which case both things would cancel each other out and nothing would win. Any ideas? Like is there a good way to consolidate the two.
D'Angelo: We could make it into a whole network like a friendster. haha. Stanford has something like that internally
Zuckerberg: Well I was thinking of doing that for the facebook. The only thing that's different about theirs is that you like request dates with people or connections with the facebook you don't do that via the system.
Zuckerberg: I also hate the fact that I'm doing it for other people haha. Like I hate working under other people. I feel like the right thing to do is finish the facebook and wait until the last day before I'm supposed to have their thing ready and then be like "look yours isn't as good as this so if you want to join mine you can…otherwise I can help you with yours later." Or do you think that's too dick?
D'Angelo: I think you should just ditch them
Zuckerberg: The thing is they have a programmer who could finish their thing and they have money to pour into advertising and stuff. Oh wait I have money too. My friend who wants to sponsor this is head of the investment society. Apparently insider trading isn't illegal in Brazil so he's rich lol.
A second conversation, between Mark Zuckerberg "and a confidant," suggests that Google nearly acquired Facebook back when it was a fledgling with one million members - for a lot less than the $100 billion it's going to IPO for. You can check that one out on Business Insider here.
Photo: Business Insider
Edited for accuracy.