Facebook and Facemash

Click Here on how to use Facebook

The movie about Facebook's founding, "The Social Network", is the story of the two Jewish boys who founded this web site in Feb 2004, they were just 19, they were in their sophomore (second) undergraduate year at college at Harvard University, it's a pretty well written movie, sometimes funny, sometimes serious/sad based on a book "The Accidental Billionaires" with Mark Zuckerberg's co-founder Eduardo Saverin as the man who provided most of the background to that book, published 2009. And within a very short time of the web site's launch it just took off.

Click here for Facebook's Timeline, plus a Harvard web page with its "Al Pacino" image

Click here for some Harvard reflections of that first year.

Below are Mark's reflections in May 2017 of that time.

My best memory from Harvard was meeting Priscilla. I had just launched this prank website Facemash, and the ad board wanted to "see me". Everyone thought I was going to get kicked out. My parents came to help me pack. My friends threw me a going away party. As luck would have it, Priscilla was at that party with her friend. We met in line for the bathroom in the Pfoho Belltower, and in what must be one of the all time romantic lines, I said: "I’m going to get kicked out in three days, so we need to go on a date quickly."

Actually, any of you graduating can use that line.

I didn’t end up getting kicked out — I did that to myself. Priscilla and I started dating. And, you know, that movie made it seem like Facemash was so important to creating Facebook. It wasn’t. But without Facemash I wouldn’t have met Priscilla, and she’s the most important person in my life, so you could say it was the most important thing I built in my time here.

I remember the night I launched Facebook from my little dorm in Kirkland House. I went to Noch’s with my friend KX (Kang-Xing Jin). I remember telling him I was excited to connect the Harvard community, but one day someone would connect the whole world.

The thing is, it never even occurred to me that someone might be us. We were just college kids. We didn’t know anything about that. There were all these big technology companies with resources. I just assumed one of them would do it. But this idea was so clear to us — that all people want to connect. So we just kept moving forward, day by day.

I know a lot of you will have your own stories just like this. A change in the world that seems so clear you’re sure someone else will do it. But they won’t. You will.

But it’s not enough to have purpose yourself. You have to create a sense of purpose for others.


So, what actually happened before Facebook with Mark Zuckerberg and Facemash?

http://www.thecrimson.com /article /2003/11/4 /hot-or-not-website-briefly-judges/
November 4, 2003 Article in "The Harvard Crimson"

Hot or Not? Website Briefly Judges Looks
By BARI M. SCHWARTZ, CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Harvard students often compete in the classroom, but for at least a few hours this weekend, only one thing helped them make the grade—their looks. Just over a month after two Harvard alums competed in the Miss America Pageant, a website created by Mark E. Zuckerberg gave students a chance to rate their peers using ID photos taken from online House facebooks.

"Were we let in for our looks? No. Will we be judged on them? Yes," proclaimed the site, which Zuckerberg has now taken offline.

Wed Morning 29th Oct 12:58am Mark Zuckerberg's online blog: "Let the hacking begin". A bit later. "Child’s play."

Wed Morning 29th Oct 4:00am Three hours later. Downloads ended. Mark had compiled ID photos from 9 houses, all undergraduates except for first-years and residents of houses Winthrop Currier and Quincy, whose facebooks were not available online.

Fri Morning 31st Oct 7:30am (Halloween) Complete Web Site www.facemash.com now finished and registered as a domain name.
A link to the site was forwarded on many House and student group e-mail lists over the weekend—including the Institute of Politics (IOP), Fuerza Latina and the Association of Black Harvard Women (ABHW)—prompting both praise and criticism across campus. Leyla R. Bravo ’05, president of Fuerza Latina, said she sent a link to the website out over the group’s e-mail list to let people know about what she viewed as a problem. "I heard from a friend and I was kind of outraged," she said. "I thought people should be aware."

Sunday night, 2nd November 10:30pm this outrage from individuals and student groups led Zuckerberg, who said he never expected such widespread publicity, to shut down the site for good.
"When I returned from a meeting at around 10 p.m.," he wrote in the letter, "traffic was out of hand, and after thinking about the best course of action, I shut down the site around 10:30."
By that time, Zuckerberg said, there had been 450 visitors to the site who had voted on their peers’ photos at least 22,000 times. Earlier that day, the site had experienced less than a quarter of those visitors, according to Zuckerberg. But when he got back to his room, traffic to the website was so heavy that he could not even log on to his own computer, his personal site server. No, Harvard's network did not crash. Not even close. But it's a good line in a movie.

Monday 3rd November. Both Fuerza Latina and ABHW received apology e-mails from Zuckerberg. In the letter, Zuckerberg wrote that he was mainly interested in the computer science behind the venture. "I understood that some parts were still a little sketchy and I wanted some more time to think about whether or not this was really appropriate to release to the Harvard community," he wrote.
"I don’t see how it can go back online. Issues about violating people’s privacy don’t seem to be surmountable. The primary concern is hurting people’s feelings," Zuckerberg said. "I’m not willing to risk insulting anyone."

On Tuesday 18th November, called before the Administrative Board.

http://www.thecrimson.com /article /2003/11/19 /facemash-creator-survives-ad-board-the/

According to Zuckerberg, it was his intention to only show a few friends to get their opinion on the site, but someone forwarded the link to a friend and the chain of e-mails continued from there. He later said the primary attraction to building the website was the science of creating the program and compiling the photos, not the prospect of publicizing it for widespread use.

Except that's what happened.

Copy of LiveJournal blog below.

Firstly and incidentally, his first comment re Jessica Alona (called Erica Albright in the movie) is not a reference to any student known to have been around Mark at that time. Almost certainly a pseudonym, the name in the onlineblog changed to protect privacy. And the movie ends sensitively, Mark regularly refreshing a webpage, a request to be Erica's friend on Facebook, while "Baby you're a Rich Man" by the Beatles plays in the background.

Oct.28.03

8:13pm. Jessica Alona is a b----. I need to think of something to make to take my mind off her. I need to think of something to occupy my mind. Easy enough now I just need an idea…

9:48pm. I’m a little intoxicated, not gonna lie. So what if it’s not even 10pm and it’s a Tuesday night? What? The Kirkland facebook is open on my computer desktop and some of these people have pretty horrendous facebook pics. I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive. It’s not such a great idea and probably not even funny, but Billy comes up with the idea of comparing two people from the facebook, and only sometimes putting a farm animal in there. Good call Mr. Olson! I think he’s onto something.

11:09pm. Yea, it’s on. I’m not exactly sure how the farm animals are going to fit into this whole thing (you can’t really ever be sure with farm animals…), but I like the idea of comparing two people together. It gives the whole thing a very Turing feel, since people’s ratings of the pictures will be more implicit than, say, choosing a number to represent each person’s hotness like they do on hotornot.com. The other thing we’re going to need is a lot of pictures. Unfortunately, Harvard doesn’t keep a public centralized facebook so I’m going to have to get all the images from the individual houses that people are in.And that means no freshman pictures…drats.

12:58pm. Let the hacking begin. First on the list is Kirkland. They keep every thing open and allow indexes in their Apache configuration, so a little wget magic is all that’s necessary to download the entire Kirkland facebook. Child’s play.

1:03am. Next on the list is Eliot. They’re also open, but with no indexes in Apache. I can run an empty search and it returns all of the images in the database in a single page. Then I can save the page and Mozilla will save all the images for me. Excellent. Moving right along…

1:06am. Lowell has some security. They require a username/password combo to access the facebook. I’m going to go ahead and say that they don’t have access to the main FAS (Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences) user database, so they have no way of knowing what people’s passwords are, and the house isn’t exactly going to ask students for their FAS passwords, so it’s got to be something else. Maybe there’s a single username/password combo that all of Lowell knows.That seems a little hard to manage since it would be impossible for the webmaster to tell Lowell residents how to figure out the username and password without giving them away completely. And you do want people to know what kind of authentication is necessary,so it’s probably not that either. So what does each student have that can be used for authentication that the house webmaster has access to? Student ids anyone? Suspicions affirmed –time to get myself a matching name and student id combo for Lowell and I’m in. But there are more problems. The pictures are separated into a bunch of different pages, and I’m way too lazy to go through all of them and save each one. Writing a perl script to take care of that seems like the right answer. Indeed.

1:31am. Adams has no security, but limits the number of results to 20 a page. All I need to do is break out the same script I just used on Lowell and we’re set.

1:42am. Quincy has no online facebook. What a sham. Nothing I can do about that.

1:43am. Dunster is intense. Not only is there no public directory, but there’s no directory at all. You have to do searches, and if your search returns more than 20 matches, nothing gets returned. And once you do get results, they don’t link directly to the images; they link to a php that redirects or something. Weird. This may be difficult. I’ll come back later.

1:52am. Leverett is a little better. They still make you search, but you can do an empty search and get links to pages with every student’s picture. It’s slightly obnoxious that they only let you view one picture at a time, and there’s no way I’m going to go to 500 pages to download pics one at a time, so it’s definitely necessary to break out emacs and modify that perl script. This time it’s going to look at the directory and figure out what pages it needs to go to by finding links with regexes. Then it’ll just go to all of the pages it found links to and jack the images from them. It’s taking a few tries to compile the script…another Beck’s is in order.

2:08am. Mather is basically the same as Leverett, except they break their directory down into classes. There aren’t any freshmen in their facebook…how weak

* End blog.

** End of Page