Multi-billionaire, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg, is the sixth richest person in the world. He began making his fortune as a 19-year-old student in 2004, when he created the social networking site, Facebook, from his university dormitory.
According to Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s richest people, published in May 2017, his estimated net worth is $62.5 billion.
Early life and schools
Born on 14th May 1984 to dentist Edward and psychiatrist Karen, Zuckerberg was raised in the Jewish faith. Attending school in Dobbs Ferry, New York, he was an excellent student at Ardsley High School and subsequently he transferred to Phillips Exeter Academy – an exclusive private school in New Hampshire.
He shone academically winning prizes in science, maths, astronomy, physics and classical studies. Having been taught Atari Basic programming in his youth by his father, he was something of a prodigy, already writing software in middle school. His father hired software developer, David Newman, as a private tutor.
Zuckerberg completed a graduate course in computing at Mercy College, developing communication tools and games. One of his first programs,”ZuckNet”, linked the computers in his home to those at his father’s dental practice.
He went on to Harvard University to study psychology and computer science, writing programs that enabled classmates to socially interact online. Facemash was based on university books called Face Books, containing photos of everyone in the student dorms. The site went live one weekend but it was closed down after its popularity caused the university’s internet to crash.
Zuckerberg started writing code for “Thefacebook” in January 2004. It went live on 4th February, initially as a site solely for Harvard University students. However, it quickly spread to other universities, becoming so popular that Mark dropped out of Harvard to concentrate on his project. Six years later, he became one of the youngest billionaires in history, as Facebook went global, attracting 500 million users by July 2010.
“The Social Network” movie
Zuckerberg’s story was told in a 2010 film. The Social Network was directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin. It revealed how Zuckerberg had become embroiled in a legal dispute brought by former friends from Harvard University. They claimed a share of his company through a lawsuit for theft of intellectual property, based upon Facebook’s early development phase.
How Facebook has shaped social media and the world
Facebook had one billion users by 2015 and in a decade, it had shaped social media into the biggest single change to people’s lives in history. Relationships, privacy, friendships, businesses, the news media and every other aspect of life is played out in the public domain, where users can “friend” or “unfriend” someone at the click of a button.
Annual school reunions, where you traditionally catch up with old friends and find out how their lives are going, have pretty much become redundant – you already know, as you’ve been following their newsfeed every day!
Oxford University professor, Robin Dunbar, described the phenomenon as creating a society where there’s no longer a need to get along with people. He likens it to someone, “kicking sand in your face” in real life, where you must learn to deal with it. On Facebook, you can simply click a button and walk away without a “forcing mechanism” in place making you handle the situation through compromise.
Zuckerberg’s thoughts on the future for social media
In February 2017, Zuckerberg penned a 6,000-word report of his views on Facebook’s future, addressing many wide-ranging issues – fake news, artificial intelligence, terrorism, online safety and the polarisation of society were included.
He said Facebook had started out by offering friends and family a platform to keep in touch – now he believes Facebook must build a, “global infrastructure” for everyone, bringing people with different views together, while providing tools to re-build offline communities that have grown weaker. Even if there’s a strong economic structure, he recognises the importance of having a social structure to offer support.
Zuckerberg met his wife, Priscilla Chan, at Harvard and they began dating in 2003. They married on 19th May 2012 and the couple had a daughter, Maxima Chan Zuckerberg, on 1st December 2015. In March 2017, Zuckerberg announced they are expecting a second daughter.
The couple have pledged to donate most of their wealth to worthy causes that promote equality and advance human potential through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which was created to celebrate their daughter’s birth.
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