There's a grip of instant messages a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg sent to various confidants before Facebook launched, as well as during its earliest years. They make for an interesting read in that the enormity of Facebook's potential never seemed to seize Zuckerberg, even after an initial year of rapid growth.
Below is Zuckerberg chatting with Adam D'Angelo in 2003, D'Angelo being Zuck's "best friend from high school" who also served CTO for Facebook and co-founded Quora according to Business Insider, which published the IMs. At the time the soon-to-be social networking king had two projects going on: TheFaceBook and a dating website.
Something to look for: Zuckerberg's strategic mind and his understanding of the digital landscape is on display here. He's not so in love with Facebook itself, but rather the concept of what a system that attracted users for a reason other than, say, a dating site could achieve.
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.
Even after Facebook launched, bringing in over a million users over seven short months, Zuckerberg's mind didn't seem to be on growing the site, but rather getting some cash from it so he could work on what he wants to, according to a confidant. Apparently that was Wirehog, "which has since been described as a file-sharing service," according to Business Insider.
Here's that exchange:
Confidant: Well you should recover the shares you need to recover legal fees.
Zuckerberg: I won't pay the legal fees
Zuckerberg: The company that buys us will haha
Confidant: Cool hopefully that'll be soon so you can move on and just work on what you want to
Zuckerberg: Well it just needs to propel Wirehog
Confidant: So you have gotten responses to your national recognition?
Zuckerberg: Responses from whom?
Zuckerberg: Some more VCs. Still talking to Google and Friendster.
BI's Nicholas Carlson sheds some more light on what's going on here, and we agree with him about this being curious: "It's D'Angelo, not Zuckerberg, who seems to suggest 'We could make it into a whole network like a friendster.'" Of course, none of this means that Zuckerberg didn't have the vision or drive. He clearly does. If it wasn't Facebook that propelled him, it probably would have been something else.
Update: Facebook just filed for its $5 billion IPO, if you're into that.
Via Business Insider