The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick
Published by Simon & Schuster
David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect gives the inside story of how four young Harvard entrepreneurs created the largest social networking site in history. One thing the book does really well is focusing on the struggles and difficulties Harvard students Mark Zuckerberg and his colleagues (Billy Olson, Dustin Moskovitz, Joe Green, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes) faced. In the early 2000s, Zuckerberg was working on multiple projects; however, he was quite wise about the limits of his projects. He knew that without sufficient resources and the support from others, they would not progress. This is why Zuckerberg invested little into most of his early projects such as Course Match and Facemash which served the purpose of “[figuring] out who was the hottest person on campus”.
Zuckerberg was a bright, intellectual individual at a young age, as evidenced by the honours and awards he won in mathematics and physics in high school. He was also the captain and most valuable player on the fencing team. Zuckerberg was accepted into Harvard where he met his roomates, the future business partners of Facebook.
The ideas of Facemash and Course Match were integrated into the early prototype of Facebook, thefacebook.com. During the early development of Facebook, the social media presence was dominated by Friendster and MySpace. “thefacebook.com” was originally limited to Harvard students as a Harvard email address was required to create an account. However, it then branched out to other Ivy League schools and was eventually made available to everyone.
One of the obstacles of starting a project such as Facebook was viewing its potential as a global platform. Zuckerberg and his colleagues were tempted by many investors during the early years of thefacebook.com but resisted because they wanted more control over the site. Facebook also could have also been sold early on for millions of dollars but it would not have developed into the website it is today. What made Facebook unique was its usage as a platform for others to communicate and share common interests.
Another obstacle, yet not as significant, was school. Although Zuckerberg and his colleagues were developing Facebook, they were still enrolled in courses at Harvard and had to balance their academics. This proved difficult because of how much work and time Facebook demanded, especially early in its development.
Having enough money to fund the Facebook servers was another issue, especially since Zuckerberg avoided putting ads on his website from the beginning. Instead, the young group of Harvard students borrowed money from each other’s families until they decided on a business partnership.
Yes, Facebook was a billion dollar idea, but it was only that. If Zuckerberg and his colleagues partnered with different investors or had they not chosen their business associates wisely, Facebook may have crumbled. The success of Facebook can also be attributed to the fall of past social media sites. Take for example, the predominant social media site Friendster which fell due to their lack of servers leading to poor site performance load up times. Zuckerberg and his colleagues were sure not to underestimate the growth of their website and bought a surplus of servers. This was especially important when Facebook branched out to other Ivy League schools because the sudden influx of students was fairly unpredictable.
As Facebook grew quickly, Zuckerberg faced multiple conflicts, one of them being with the Winklevoss twins. Prior to working on thefacebook.com, Zuckerberg was helping the twins develop software and the Winklevoss twins claimed that Facebook stole many of their ideas and resulted in Zuckerberg paying a lawsuit. However, the largest conflict was between two of the three co-founders of Facebook–Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin. As Facebook grew, Zuckerberg felt that Saverin was not making enough contributions to his website despite the fact that he was a major shareholder. Consequently, Zuckerberg diluted Saverin’s shares in order to give himself full control of the company. David Fincher’s The Social Network specifically illustrates this conflict between Zuckerberg and Saverin.
Overall, The Facebook Effect is a great read for those who enjoy non-fiction and learning about the events that occur during the growth of major projects such as Facebook. By getting the information first hand from the co-founders of Facebook themselves, The Facebook Effect is strikingly accurate and conveys the problems that lay beneath the surface of developing a social media website and challenges what young minds can achieve with few resources.