Poking Facebook — missing code, disagreements still hang over the company

facebook-saga.jpg02138, a Harvard alumni magazine, has published a lengthy piece about the early days of Facebook, including the controversy surrounding chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s work for ConnectU, the company that has sued him.

It is one of the more in-depth pieces so far, and unearths material we haven’t seen before, though it’s possible it may have been surfaced elsewhere without our knowledge. Particularly interesting is how nearly all the early code base for Facebook has disappeared, with Zuckerberg saying it was wiped from outside servers long ago or lost on missing or corrupted hard drives.

This is strange because only last year he was saying the code base could be used to defend himself against allegations that he stole it from ConnectU. “We know that we didn’t take anything from them,” he told the New Yorker last year. “There is really good documentation of this: our code base versus theirs. At some point, that will come out in court.” And so now, of course, it won’t be coming out in court.

Also noteworthy was Zuckerberg’s relationship with Eduardo Saverin, his early teammate in launching Facebook, and first CEO. Eventually Facebook and Saverin came to blows, according to the magazine:

Zuckerberg claims that Saverin tried to hijack the company by freezing its bank account when Facebook desperately needed cash in its formative months. Zuckerberg used money his parents had saved for his college tuition to keep the company afloat. Saverin, who originally owned a third of Facebook, has counter-sued. He claims that the approximately $20,000 involved was his money—Facebook seed capital that Zuckerberg promised to match and never did. Instead, Saverin says, Zuckerberg used the money to cover personal expenses. Then, when Zuckerberg incorporated Facebook and became sole director, he cut Saverin out of the power structure of the company and watered down his shares.

The saga continues, with the court ruling that outside consultants can image and analyze early Facebook memory devices for the early code.