Harvard student Aaron Greenspan says he came up with the idea for Facebook before Mark Zuckerberg founded the popular company of the same name.
Greenspan’s claims, backed up by emails, are the latest salvo in the controversy surrounding the true origins of the social networking company. His claims have surfaced before, but in a New York Times story just published, Greenspan goes to greater lengths at proving his case.
In 2003, Greenspan sent an email to Harvard students describing the newest feature of houseSYSTEM as “the Face Book,” an online service for finding other students. It was four months before Mr. Zuckerberg started his own site, originally “thefacebook.com.” In other emails, Greenspan also discussed key features that Zuckerberg would later implement in his own company. Greenspan even corresponded with Zuckerberg, and the two apparently talked about joining up, but Zuckerberg ultimately decided to go it alone, raising capital and creating his own vastly more successful company.
Most significantly, however, Greenspan doesn’t appear ready to sue Zuckerberg. He says he’s come to terms with Zuckerberg’s success. The real outcome of his assertions is likely to be a further weakening of the lawsuit filed by Tyler, left Cameron Winklevoss, two of the co-founders of ConnectU, who said Facebook was their idea and that Zuckerberg stole it from them, and are pursuing their claims in court.
Still, Greenspan has been critical of Zuckerberg. See his open letter to Zuckerberg, for example. In his “Authoritas: One Student’s Harvard Admissions,” a 306-page autobiography, he notes many of the features he originated before Zuckerberg, and describes his frustration at how Zuckerberg got media attention from Harvard’s Crimson (see his references to Zuckerberg here).