A Bit of Almost-History

I saw “The Social Network” for the first time tonight. I was actually a little underwhelmed; I had expected great things, from all the hype surrounding the movie as well as from my high estimation of David Fincher. I guess a story can be only so interesting if you already know the plot.

Anyway, at the beginning of the movie, in 2003, Zuck decided to create FaceMash after his girlfriend dumped him. At the time, each of Harvard’s residential “houses” had its own physical facebook (yes, that was actually what people called them), and many had digital versions. Zuckerberg visited the online facebooks for each of the houses, feverishly writing scripts to download the profile pictures en masse from each one. The movie showed screenshots from several of the facebooks.

Harvard has 12 residential houses, of which nine are clustered together near the Charles River; the other three are situated about a mile away, in the “Quad”. This distance is often mocked by residents of the nine, and Quadlings, as they are known, tend to develop their own culture and social life.

Such was the case this time around. Turns out Zuckerberg only grabbed profile pics from the nine river houses, and ignored the Quad houses. I was bummed, because a few years before, I had actually created the online facebook for my house, Currier, in exchange for a summer of free rent. (I must say, it was one of the better looking ones at the time. =) Alas, Currier was a Quad house, so Zuckerberg ignored it, both in real life and on the screen. Not gonna lie, I would have gotten a kick out of watching him scrape the (imagined) Currier house facebook in the movie. Then again, I was probably sensible and implemented password protection for it… I don’t remember.

Another minor ironic detail in the movie: Sean Parker is portrayed in the movie as the (sole) creator of Napster. In reality, Shawn Fanning was the true technical founder of Napster and Parker was (as I understand it) involved in the business side. Curious that a movie that tackles the ambiguities of ownership and innovation would give Parker a free pass on that one.

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