“The question I ask myself like almost every day is, ‘Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?'”
Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s motivation to create a social media network began long before Facebook. At the age of 12, he built an early messaging system called “Zucknet” for his father’s dental practice, which the family also used. During his teen years, he attended the academically elite Phillips Exeter Academy and built an earlier version of a musical software program similar to Pandora. If money was his motivation, it didn’t show. Both AOL and Microsoft offered to buy the software from Zuckerberg — and both offered him a job. But he declined both and went on to attend Harvard.
While at Harvard, he developed a software program that allowed students to choose courses based on the selections of other students — essentially, an early dating program. He also developed software called Facemash, which compared the photos of two students and allowed users to vote on their attractiveness. (This was shut down for obvious reasons.)
At Harvard, Zuckerberg had earned a reputation as the go-to guy for software development, which is how the now-infamous Winklevoss twins and Divya Narendra approached him to develop an elite Harvard dating site. However, the future tech mogul lost interest in that project and turned his attention to his own social media connection project, The Facebook, an early incarnation of today’s Facebook where users could upload their photos and information on a profile page.
While he dropped out of college his sophomore year, it wasn’t out of lack of drive. He moved to Palo Alto, Calif., in 2004, to devote himself to his startup. By the end of the year, Facebook, which had been run out of his dorm room up until six months earlier, had 1 million users.
It’s hard to imagine where Facebook will venture in the next 10 years. The public company is not only the most popular social media platform in the world, but it’s also a robust advertising company, a bot toolkit provider and the owner of instant messaging company WhatsApp and VR tech company Oculus. Zuckerberg also launched the nonprofit Internet.org in 2013, with the ambitious aim to connect everyone in the world to the internet.
Both Facebook and Zuckerberg have evolved, but his motivations remain: to connect the world.