social network

Alcohol, parties and coding: unknown stories about the early years of Facebook

The adventures of developers in the years when the notion of social networks was just emerging, and Zuckerberg came to business meetings in slippers.

19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg in Palo Alto, 2004. Photo by Scott Beale (Scott Beale)

July 10, 2018 writer Adam Fisher (Adam Fisher) released the book “Valley of Geniuses” ( Valley of Genius ), which tells about talented people from the Silicon Valley. In it, Fischer does not talk about what was happening in his own words-instead, the book consists of the stories of immediate participants in the events. One of the sections of the publication is dedicated to the first years of development of Facebook and its creators – young people dreaming of “Internet domination”.

Silicon Valley without social networks

Thanks to the feature film “Social Network”, everyone is more or less aware that after the huge success of Facebook (then at Harvard University, Zuckerberg’s team went to the Silicon Valley. The year 2004 was in the backyard, and among Californian IT specialists the opinion was formed that the “golden Internet fever” had ended: the market had already been divided, and there were no big discoveries to wait.

Mark Pincus (Mark Pincus), who will later invest in Facebook money and become co-founder of a large video game company Zynga (FarmVille), believed otherwise. The Internet of the 2000s seemed to him a place with which you can get connections, friends and good work. For this, only the point of entry was needed. In the same year, Friendster was opened – in fact, the first social network in the world, which lost a year later to MySpace.

Zuckerberg and co-founder of Facebook Chris Hughes in May 2004. Getty Photos

Despite the growing success of MySpace, social networks were still a very bumpy way to earn. Before meeting with the co-founder of Napster, Sean Parker, Zuckerberg had little idea how to make money on Facebook. Two months after their acquaintance, Mark rented a house in California, which by chance was next to Parker’s home. According to him, at that time Zuckerberg and the team had two conditions: either they work or take a break to rest and work again. The students almost never left the house, except in the movies.

The living room became a kind of office filled with monitors and painted boards. There was no specific working schedule or sleep mode for the team. New people were recruited simply – Zuckerberg invited them to a party, treated him to marijuana and discussed the work plan in parallel. “Some day we sat and just realized that we will not return to school,” recalls Mark.

Office, which became a house

The popularity of Facebook grew, and with this the interest of investors increased. Zuckerberg and the team were too busy with coding to devote time to meetings, and Sean Parker volunteered to do it. In the film “The Social Network”, it was performed by Justin Timberlake and was shown as a sporty and stylish guy. In fact, it was a lean and not particularly attractive young man, says Parker’s familiar street artist David Cho.

Parker himself understood this, so the first thing he changed his hair, enrolled in the gym and bought an expensive suit. This, plus his personal charm, was enough for successful meetings with investors. A great role was played by the “Facebook effect”: Zuckerberg could come to a meeting in a sweatshirt, shorts, slippers and put his feet on the table, but all this took a back seat when people saw the social network page.

Facebook home page in 2004

In 2004 only students of several colleges could register in Facebook, but this was quite enough. People trusted the offspring of Mark much more than MySpace or other competitors: users indicated real names, home addresses and phone numbers. In those years, such openness seemed to be something supernatural.

The summer of 2004, which the Zuckerberg team spent at work in the Californian house, played an important role in the development of the project. By the end of the year, Mark and other Facebook founders devoted more time and effort to coding and development than ever before. At the same time, Parker continued to build the company’s reputation in the market and offered cooperation to David Cho. He already earned a reputation as a professional in street art, so he asked 60 thousand dollars to paint the headquarters of Facebook in Palo Alto.

David Cho. Facebook Photos

“I did not care about Facebook. It was necessary to have an email from the college to get there. But I loved to take risks, I believed in Sean, “Cho says. He took payment for work in the shares of the company: seven years later, in 2012, the total value of these shares reached $ 200 million.

In February 2005, the team first saw the headquarters. It was located on the second floor, and climbing the stairs, it was impossible not to pay attention to the image on the wall. She was decorated with a half-naked girl with a large bust riding a giant bulldog, from whose mouth the blood oozed. In the toilet appeared an image of two girls hugging and kissing, and the first cyber security specialist Max Kelly (Max Kelly) worked at the wall with a picture of people who had sex.

At the corners of the headquarters lay blankets, on the floor were scattered boxes with video games, toys and lego. There were several sofas at the wall for those who slept in the office. However, sometimes someone fell asleep at a table or under it, as an extensive bar with alcohol nearby was popular.

In the office they often drank. Sometimes in the morning I went there and heard the banks creaking under the open door, from under the beer, which smelled all the room.

Ezra Callahan
One of the first 20 Facebook employees

In the first months after the move, the staff could not figure out the front door: it automatically opened every day at nine in the morning. So that no one stole things, the team chose a volunteer who came first and guarded the office before the rest. Most of the employees came to the headquarters by noon, and by evening they could have a party with a drink. At some point, the couple began to form in the office.

Sometimes executives like Max Kelly would come into the office late in the evening with the words: “Listen, as we are going to get drunk today,” and the team walked amicably to the bar. As recalled by Facebook employees, such evenings did not always end with booze – sometimes employees just discussed the future, shared ideas about the development of the company and freely criticized the leaders sitting opposite.

“Relaxed days” were often replaced by sleepless nights. Work piled up in such quantity that on rest at employees there were only some hours. On the weekends and leave speech was not going. According to Zuckerberg, such selflessness of the backbone of the company is easy to explain: they, young and careless people, had nothing to lose. “Young people are just smarter,” adds Mark.


As in 2004, the summer of 2005 brought great changes for the project. Zuckerberg assembled the team and announced that the redesign was coming . First of all it concerned photos and news tape. Before her appearance, to see updates from friends, it was necessary to constantly go to their pages. The concept of “albums” did not exist, and at times people changed their profile picture on the profile hourly – this was the only way to share new frames.

When the service just started, the team had to worry: instead of snapshots with friends, one of the users uploaded to the album all the stylized Windows wallpapers. For a second, it seemed to employees that they could not convey the meaning of the function to people, but then everything started working as it should. Facebook employees admit – the success of the “photos” section was the ability to tag people.

It is difficult to suppress curiosity when a person received a notice in the spirit: “Someone uploaded your photo to the Internet.”

The story with the introduction of the news tape (then known as “What’s new?”) Turned out to be more ambitious. The tape started in October 2005 and immediately caused an ambiguous reaction: the function monitored and reported each user action until the status or delete the photo was changed. Everyone seemed to know everything about everyone, but nobody liked it. Facebook was accused of violating privacy, as if a social network told people about things that they did not want to advertise.

A riot began: users threatened to boycott the service, organized petitions and rallied outside the headquarters, so the company had to hire security. “Bring back the old Facebook” – shouted the crowd, marching down the street. In the social network, the group was opened against the news tape, in which several million people entered in two days. The situation was complicated, as complaints about innovation came from everywhere. At the office, the staff frantically tried to come up with a way to fix the situation and wondered: “Should we roll everything out?”

The team in Palo Alto had to endure several difficult days, and at this time Zuckerberg was in his first tour of Europe. Employees slightly adjusted the private functions of the tape and asked users to wait. It worked – soon the indignant went home, and statistics on the use of the news tape was growing.

Zuckerberg at Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto, March 2006. Photo by Elena Dorfman

Two years – it took so much Zuckerberg’s team to get from Yahoo the offer to buy Facebook for 1.2 billion dollars. As the then staff recalled, it was an incredible proposal, which it seemed impossible to refuse. Overnight everyone looked back: Napster, Friendster and MySpace – all these startups once also were on the pedestal, but it all ended sadly. Many thought that the offer of Yahoo – is a chance to leave beautifully at the height of power.

One of the founders of Facebook, Dustin Moskovitz and Sean Parker were confident that the deal with the search giant would end in tragedy for the whole project. Parker argued that 90% of all such mergers lead to failures. The final point in the thought was the case – Yahoo shares unexpectedly fell in price, so the company had to reduce its offer to $ 800 million. According to Mark Pincus, for Zuckerberg this provided an opportunity to get out of the situation: he did not want to give the project, but to give up $ 1.2 billion is much more difficult than from 800 million.

At that time, the unofficial Facebook slogan “domination” was often heard at headquarters. He also sounded in the office on the day the team literally tore up and trampled on a contract with Yahoo. Many IT-veterans took this decision with great respect, including Steve Jobs.

I admire Mark Zuckerberg. I almost do not know him, but I respect him for his decision not to sell – for the desire to create a company. I really respect that.

Steve Jobs
founder of Apple
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