It's also relevant that Mark appears so non-chalant about the whole endeavor in the video. That's more or less how he came off when I spoke to him a month before the site launched, except he was more coy, refusing to divulge what he was actually working on. It didn't sound like a business seeking venture capital financing whatever it was, and so I had no reason to think I should get involved. Nor did I suspect that he was actually willing to torpedo our relationship by copying my work feature for feature, seeking funding without mentioning it, and simultaneously asking for advice. Nor did I suspect anything about the fact that he was searching my Facebook for "winklevoss."
And yes, I've moved on, but each time these lies are uncovered fresh, no one else takes him to task for them.
Even if those people are wrong, it doesn't matter. They've already decided.
When people read or hear things like what you're posting in this thread, it reflects poorly on you. Yeah, it absolutely sucks if things played out the way that you say they did, but being upset about it isn't going to improve anything.
To paraphrase a hacker friend of mine:
"Write shit, build shit, write about building shit...let them know you by the trail of [original content] that you leave behind"
The first time I've ever heard of you was in this thread. Right now, instead of knowing you as
"Aaron, a brilliant hacker working on facecash and doing cool things.",
I know you as
"Aaron, somebody who is really caught up on a dispute he had with a college associate almost 7 years ago."
If the latter is the perception you want people to have of you, continue making noise about your dispute with facebook, otherwise, don't.
Even if those people are wrong, it doesn't matter. They've already decided."
Is it just me or is this the completely wrong attitude to take towards history?
You're also taking those lines out of context. I'm saying that he is hurting his reputation because things like comments in a hn thread aren't going to change peoples' minds.
Have you ever read a (U.S.) high school history textbook? They bring a similarly simplifying tone to the thousands of singular specific situations in the past and it does everyone a disservice.
"You're also taking those lines out of context."
I'm guilty of this, yes. I suppose what it comes down to is that I do not share your line of reasoning; Aaron's reputation is not hurt in my eyes.
You seem to think that Mark should have (then) asked you to help with Facebook or (today) acknowledge that he learned from HouseSYSTEM. I'd suggest that Mark's heavy use of HouseSYSTEM showed him mistakes to avoid and thereby encouraged Facebook's adoption. Maybe he thought you were too invested in the choices you'd made with HouseSYSTEM to start fresh.
I think that you're right that some aspects of houseSYSTEM's design hindered it. However, it was never officially sanctioned.
(The analysis would of course be different if the question were exactly, "was there anything at all that was anything like The Facebook when you created the first version?" But that's not the case here; he's giving a autobiographical coarse narrative view as he saw it. Normal cordial conversation requires generous and magnanimous listeners who fill in the implied qualifiers for a speaker. You are not a cordial and generous listener when it comes to Facebook topics; you have an axe to grind. You detect 'lies' when no other listener would.)
But yeah, Zuckerburg is a liar about a lot of things. People give him a lot more credit than he deserves. I still believe the Winklevosses about him stealing their idea, it seems like the kind of thing he'd do.
The Winklevosses aren't much better for the record. They lied on national television. Compare this (3:45):
Q: Did you contribute information and material to the making of this movie?
A: No, but we actually met with the actors after the filming.
"In addition, I can confirm that Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss were interviewed by Mr. Mezrich."
These guys were all made for each other, though I think Paul Ceglia takes the cake for most outrageous.
When you get old and tell your grand-children that story, don't make it one of jealousy and bitterness. Make it something that shows them the potential of small things.
Most developers (me included) know from personal experience how awful it is to watch someone you consider to be an asshole or a rip-off become very successful. Most of us also know how it the feels to discover that some company recently took off like a rocket with one of your ideas; usually they got the same idea independently, but if they actually copied it from you - that's a very special kind of pain.
That being said, I think it's important to remember the huge success of Facebook is not just based on the initial idea. There were many social networks before Facebook. As painful as it may be to some, the most important thing Facebook did was taking the company from the initial idea to where it is now and from where I stand neither the Winklevosses nor Aaron can really claim they did that.
As a developer and an ideas man myself, this is kind of a hard reality to face as well, because it means that in the end business practices and marketing are exponentially more important than concepts and programming.
I think what he meant was that Harvard itself didn't provide an online facebook to its students. Wasn't Harvard supposedly working on a university-run online facebook during that time? Or am I just thinking of houseSYSTEM?
houseSYSTEM's Facebook was the first "universal face book" at Harvard University.
I offered to sell or just give houseSYSTEM to Harvard, and HASCS turned me down, probably because they insisted that everything had to be done in Java using Harvard's internal iSites framework. Instead they built their own version and launched it a couple of years later.
Zuckerberg isn't in a court of law, so I'm guessing he's skipping details and bending the truth (or lying) to make his story simpler and easier to understand. He's also probably glossing over things to make his story sound more dramatic and impressive.
Sorry to hear about your history with him though. That sucks. =T
Sites like these need press to grow. Without press, there's no point.
Social networking isn't a unique idea. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg and you both created social networks. Yes, he may have borrowed some ideas from your creation. But the most significant innovations which have driven Facebook's success - newsfeed, platform, open graph, likes - came well afterwards. By your own words though you were ready to sell HouseSYSTEM to Harvard. It's unlikely you would have had the vision to make Facebook what it is today.
I know the movie is dramatized but this quote resonated with me: "Look, a guy who builds a nice chair doesn't owe money to everyone who ever has built a chair, okay? They came to me with an idea, I had a better one."
Unless you think I'm going to hunt you down in the middle of the night, you know me in person but secretly hate me, or you work for Mark, I can't think of any reason why asking me a question would require a new throwaway account.
Your question is leading and based on numerous false assumptions.
I offered to sell Harvard a license. From the beginning I wanted to expand the site to other schools. That's why I spent a ton of time making the photo module on the home page (http://housesystem.thinkcomputer.com) modular: so that users could eventually upload their own photos to the photo album of whatever place they were at. I was inspired by the model of the Daily Jolt, which my cousin at Brown showed me during my sophomore year (2002-2003), but I thought it lacked important features. Your assertion about my lacking vision is therefore incorrect, not to mention a little insulting.
I decided not to keep going with houseSYSTEM because I thought I could come up with a better idea than an integrated network for students. And I did. It's an integrated network for businesses, and as beneficial as houseSYSTEM was to the student population, what I'm working on has far more potential when you think about things on a large scale. That requires a bit of vision, don't you think?
I deserve credit because I worked day and night for months to write code for a product called The Facebook that was part of an integrated environment for students, and every feature I created is available in some form on http://www.facebook.com now, which started as an integrated environment for students with similar or identical integration. It's not about inventing social networking at all, and I've never once claimed that.
But as you argue, maybe that's all just as common as building a chair. Even if Mark had never met me, he was influenced by houseSYSTEM. As Harvard tries to teach you from the minute you get there (because it's common sense), it's proper to acknowledge work that has influenced you (as I have in this post, for example). It's improper to plagiarize or make false claims.
It's true, I never had the vision to make Facebook what it is today because I wholeheartedly disagree that what Facebook is today is a good thing. My Facebook would have been far smaller with fewer users, but far better. That's the vision I still have, but I'll have to call it something else when I get around to it.
Release what you're working on and wow us, just don't spend your time posting bitter comments on Hacker News every time Mark Zuckerberg is brought up.
If the press did its job by holding people accountable, I wouldn't have to say anything at all, but it generally doesn't.
And I did release what I'm working on (http://www.facecash.com). It's not going very far at the moment because California made it illegal as of July 1, but I'm working on changing the law. Also, you seemed to like it last we spoke, so I'm a bit confused.
An idea is something waiting to be executed on. No execution and, in my eyes at least, you can't own that idea because how do you know it's unique to you? Everyone had ideas for a tablet, Microsoft created many that were total failures, it took a visionary like Steve Jobs to create the most useful and popular tablet in the world. See my point?
I do like what you're working on, it just seems that every time Mark Zuckerberg is mentioned, you jump in and mention how wronged you were. Move on and put Facebook behind you, you don't want a reputation like the Winklevosses.
On the "put it behind you" argument: I think it's sad, but people talk about Facebook pretty much every minute of every day, and I have no ability to make them stop. I ignore 99.999% of what is said. I certainly don't go looking for it. Yet every now and then the press will write something inexcusably wrong that I cannot ignore and that merits correction because it is part of the public record. I've never heard anyone else with direct knowledge speak up. So even though the events of 2003 and 2004 are well behind me, I'm still involuntarily immersed in their effects, and I value my ability to sleep at night very highly.
(No one seems to ask why TechCrunch is posting a six-year-old video of Mark in the first place. Shouldn't they get over the fact that he started it? It's certainly not news, nor is that fact that his views have changed over time.)
Your statements about idea ownership leave me baffled. This isn't about an idea, it's about a product I actually created and publicized.
Max Levchin and Peter Thiel initially got funded for a mobile payments application. "We hit this idea of, 'Why don't we just store money in the handheld devices?'...what would you rather do, take out $5 and give someone their lunch share, or pull out two Palm Pilots and geek out at the table?" (Max Levchin interview, Founders at Work, by Jessica Livingston). FaceCash, and especially its "Bill Splitting" feature, is the same idea.
PayPal's application was also "something that can store all of your private data on your handheld device. So your credit card information, this and that" (Same interview). FaceCash allows you to do that, too.
Still, it's not the idea. It's the packaging. Paypal's mobile app was created for the Palm Pilot. Yours is for the mobile phone. Facebook and houseSYSTEM may have been borne out of the same idea, but the packaging is very different.
Maybe you should also go after Google+. They are also copying many of features you claim as your own. Larry and Sergey surely owe you just as much attribution.
If we are to go with the assumption that your houseSYSTEM was feature-comparative to Mark's The Facebook (and for the sake of argument, we'll assume your assessment is accurate), then Chris Hughes' person connections to The Crimson may have very well been one of the significant variables that resulted to your products having radically different futures. While it's a romantic notion to think that a sufficient amount of blood, sweat, and tears will ultimately lead to success, the reality is that an external factor such as getting into Y Combinator or having a well-timed TechCrunch article can (fairly or not) make or break a startup.
Remember to get out of the office once and awhile and network. Simply delivering a product is not enough.
6:20:09 A.M. EST
At about six in the morning, Mark Zuckerberg searches for "universal facebook” on Google,
finding the Universal Face Book on the Quincy House houseSYSTEM web site.
roam175-29.student.harvard.edu - - [06/Jan/2004:06:20:09 -0500] "GET /facebook/ HTTP/1.1" 200 5436
"Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.5) Gecko/20031007 Firebird/0.7"
This probably also helps in getting the people around you to take you seriously.
According to the book and Wikipedia, there was even a time when Mark was even more focused on another idea of his, Wirehog. It's possible he may have even had some doubts about Facebook, or lost interest in it for a little while.
And hey, what startup founder hasn't had those thoughts? They're totally natural. I'm sure some have a razor-sharp focus & vision from Day One, but I would never fault a founder for having a few shaky moments of doubt here & there.
Apple, in its early days, was Woz thinking "hey, I can build a cheap computer" and Jobs thinking "hey, I can sell people Woz's computer". I don't know what he would have said if you asked him what was next. I'm sure the Mac wasn't on his mind, and neither was becoming the most valuable company in the world by selling cell phones.
The reality is that it's very difficult to know what ground you're standing on until you dig deep enough to just see it with your own eyes. Predicting the future and investing in that wishful vision is a much more risky strategy than just acknowledging the current moment and trying to lead it closer to where you'd like it to go. I do not know whether he looked at the situation in this type of manner or not, but that's how I justify facebook's success.
As a side note, I wish people would stop pretending they never drank out of a big red cup before.
The few that actually do change the world don't usually set out with that goal in mind. Either that or they don't go out proclaiming they'll do it. They just do it.
Contrast that with the startups coming out of incubators boasting about how they're going to change the world with their.....t-shirt recommendation engine app. Or something of the sort.
And who knows? It might actually be a kick-ass product, have phenomenal revenues & truly help people. But it's not going to change the world.
Maybe it's just my issue with the phrase but I think "changing the world" has become one of those trite, overused Web 2.0 expressions that have become as hollow as a dead tree trunk to early adopters & end users. They've simply heard it too many times before and they know not every company is going to change the world.
The other thing that's troublesome is that it's discouraging people from building cool stuff because they think it's not "changing the world." I've already seen questions on Quora from folks who think their ideas (or even existing businesses) are invalid because they don't feel the company's going to become the next Google or Apple; even though, as someone already mentioned, Larry & Sergey were ready to sell at $1 million for the technology. That doesn't sound to me like someone who wanted to change the world from the very outset.
I don't know. Maybe it's just my issue with the phrase but I imagine there are at least a few folks that feel the same way. Apologies for the tangent.
I think it's perfectly fine his view changed from '05 to now about the use of Facebook.