On November 7, Facebook's founder will make his first official visit to his alma mater since he dropped out in 2004, and my-oh-my has he grown. Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences says in announcing the former student's visit, "Mark Zuckerberg will visit Harvard on Monday to recruit students for jobs and internships at Facebook." While this is his first visit back in an official capacity Zuckerberg has been back to Cambridge to recruit Harvard students before, including a 2005 visit to the introductory computer science class, wearing his trademark Adidas sandals. This time around Zuckerberg "will meet with Harvard officials," which sounds like Illuminati-speak for "tug on the strings of the marionette that is our Facebook-addicted world."
When he left Harvard, Mark was only planning on spending the summer in bare-walled house in Silicon Valley to see if he could get his new project thefacebook.com off the ground. Now, Mark lives in a gated compound with a bodyguard parked by the gate and humbly expresses his status as one of the world's youngest billionaires by making nine-figure donations to save entire school districts. "I knew nothing, so I had to be out here. Facebook would not have worked had I stayed in Boston," Zuckerberg said last Saturday during a Y Combinator event at Stanford. "But I think that now, knowing more of what I know, I think I might have been able to pull it off."
Around the time Zuckerberg was mulling the future of his college career, The Harvard Crimson was eagerly awaiting his return to campus. (The Crimson is also preparing to cover Zuckerberg's return to campus this Monday, though Naveen Srivatsa, the paper's president, wouldn't reveal any details when we asked him on Tuesday.) As anyone who's seen The Social Network could surmise, his launching Facebook made him a campus celebrity half a decade before Jesse Eisenberg gave the world a glimpse of what happened that fateful February night when Zuckerberg flipped the switch and created what's now the world's most popular website. And as they are wont to do, The Crimson covered the ups and downs of Zuckerberg's last few months at Harvard and at one point, even sent a correspondent to Palo Alto to check in on their favorite founder. Let's run through the highlights in chronological order.
"Not-So-Artificial Intelligence" by S.F. Brickman, Crimson Staff Writer (Oct. 23, 2003)
The Crimson's bread-and-butter for young undergrads is to seek and destroy (read: profile) unsuspecting savants like Zuckerberg. This post from the fall before Facebook tells the brief story of Synapse, the Pandora-like mp3 program Zuckerberg sold to Microsoft in high school for a cool $950,000. Also notice how far Zuckerberg has come from his open-source roots.
Though these days Zuckerberg has other projects on his "to do" list, the sophomore anticipates Synapse's future success. He says he and D'Angelo are considering making Synapse open source … Zuckerberg's software populism goes beyond simply turning down big-money corporate offers. "It's important to us that people are able to use the software for free," he preaches. "Software belongs to everyone. No matter what kind of deal we get into, we're going to try to keep it free."
"Facemash Creator Survives Ad Board" by Katharine A. Kaplan (Nov. 19, 2003)
This piece explains the aftermath of the Facemash incident, and as The Crimson now notes, the dialogue from The Social Network was lifted directly from this article. Check out what Zuck had to say about privacy:
"I understood that some parts were still a little sketchy and I wanted some more time to think about whether or not this was really appropriate to release to the Harvard community," Zuckerberg wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson earlier this month. … "Issues about violating people's privacy don't seem to be surmountable," he wrote at that point. "I'm not willing to risk insulting anyone."
"Hundreds Register for New Facebook Website" by Alan J. Tabak (Feb. 9 2004)
Normally, "hundreds" sounds like such a big number when you're reading about a fad on a college campus. At the time people were reading this article in the dining halls, Zuckerberg guessed that his new website would boast about 900 members. Even a few days after launch, he's already great at marketing it:
"Everyone's been talking a lot about a universal face book within Harvard," Zuckerberg said. "I think it's kind of silly that it would take the University a couple of years to get around to it. I can do it better than they can, and I can do it in a week." … "I'm pretty happy with the amount of people that have been to it so far," he said. "The nature of the site is that each user's experience improves if they can get their friends to join it."
"Online Facebooks Duel Over Tangled Web of Authorship" by Timothy J. McGinn (May 28, 2004)
Enter the Winklevii. The lawsuit is now incredibly tired, but it's interesting to see how Zuckerberg denies the accusations from the very beginning:
"They kept talking about releasing it [in November]," Zuckerberg said. "But all their graphics were still taken from copyrighted sources. It was clear that it was nowhere near release."
"Now that they are claiming that I took the stuff from them—it's completely false," Zuckerberg said.
"Zuckerberg Programs New Website" by Alan J. Tabak (Aug. 13, 2004)
You probably never heard about Zuck's file-sharing website Wirehog because it was so terribly short-lived. Note Zuckerberg's heartfelt intentions to go back to school and get good grades:
Zuckerberg said his grades suffered while he managed the explosion of thefacebook.com last semester.
"I hope that I wouldn't have to run two websites and go to school," Zuckerberg said. "I tried doing that in the spring  term with one website, and that didn't work out so well."
"Business, Casual." by Kevin J. Feeney (Feb. 24, 2005)
This is the correspondent piece we mentioned above. (Fun fact that will make you want to read the whole piece: Feeney was the first student at Dave Eggers' non-profit writing center 826 Valencia.) Notice how "The" is still appended to the beginning of the company name and Sean Parker was still a hilarious character:
It was over the summer that TheFacebook added Parker to its team. When Zuckerberg learned Parker was looking for a place to stay, he invited him to crash at Casa Facebook. Parker showed up with two earthly possessions, Zuckerberg says: a BMW 5-Series, which he had bought with stock from his second company, Plaxo, and a pair of "ridiculously nice speakers." That was it.
It was also already clear that neither Zuckerberg nor co-founder Dustin Moskowitz would ever return to Harvard:
"I mean, it was never a formal decision, like, should we go back to school?" he says. "We all just kind of sat around one day and were like, 'We're not going back to school, are we? Nah.'"