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Dorm hackers

Book>> The Accidental Billionaires, The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal • By Ben Mezrich, Doubleday • Rs 6

By Ananth Nayak
Published: Monday 15 March 2010

imageIn America’s Silicon Valley, celluloid fantasy can sometimes become a reality.

For two Harvard undergraduates, Marck Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin, who created Facebook, the social networking site’s early success propelled them into a world of cool nightclubs and hot dates. But the site also landed them in a legal battle that soured their relationship.

Ben Mezrich’s book on Facebook’s founders is replete with little-known details.
Spurned by a fellow Harvard undergraduate in 2003, Mark Zuckerberg retaliated by hacking into the university’s online dormitory directories (called facebooks) to download female students’ photos and create a website where male students could rank them by appearance. University officials shut down the site and disciplined Zuckerberg for his prank, but the idea for Facebook had been born. In 2004, Zuckerberg with his friend Saverin launched Facebook’s prototype for Harvard students. As its popularity increased, the website opened to additional colleges, high schools, and, in 2006, to everyone over 13. The Accidental Billionaires tracks this evolution of Facebook.

The book is at its best while des-cribing the fraternity ho-use atmosphere in the site’s early days. At one point, to hold a competition to recruit new programmers, Zuckerberg decides the candidates must not just hack through line after line of computer code but also drink shot after shot of whiskey.

imageThose looking for insights into social networking phenomenon will be disappointed. Mezrich does offer a cursory analysis of the network’s astonishing influence. But his interest is primarily in the behind the scene machinations that turned the site from an amateur experiment into a professional enterprise. Even here the account is partial: Zuckerberg refused to be interviewed.

But what the heck: the book is still an entertaining read even while we wait for a more comprehensive analysis of Facebook.

Ananth Nayak is a software expert in Hyderabad

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