In November 2003, upon the referral of Victor Gao, the Winklevosses and Narendra approached Mark Zuckerberg about joining the HarvardConnection team. By this point, the previous HarvardConnection programmers had already made progress on a large chunk of the coding: front-end pages, the registration system, a database, back-end coding, and a way users could connect with each other, which Gao called a "handshake". In early November, Narendra emailed Zuckerberg saying, “We’re very deep into developing a site which we would like you to be a part of and ... which we know will make some waves on campus.” Within days, Zuckerberg was talking to the HarvardConnection team and preparing to take over programming duties from Gao. On the evening of November 25, 2003, the Winklevosses and Narendra met with Zuckerberg in the dining hall of Harvard's Kirkland House, where they explained to an enthusiastic Zuckerberg, the HarvardConnection website, the plan to expand to other schools after launch, the confidential nature of the project, and the importance of getting there first. During the meeting, Zuckerberg allegedly entered into an oral contract with Narendra and the Winklevosses and became a partner in HarvardConnection. He was given the private server location and password for the unfinished HarvardConnection website and code, with the understanding that he would finish the programming necessary for launch. Zuckerberg allegedly chose to be compensated in the form of sweat equity.
On November 30, 2003, Zuckerberg told Cameron Winklevoss in an email that he did not expect completion of the project to be difficult. Zuckerberg writes: "I read over all the stuff you sent and it seems like it shouldn't take too long to implement, so we can talk about that after I get all the basic functionality up tomorrow night." The next day, on December 1, 2003, Zuckerberg sent another email to the HarvardConnection team. "I put together one of the two registration pages so I have everything working on my system now. I'll keep you posted as I patch stuff up and it starts to become completely functional." On December 4, 2003, Zuckerberg writes: "Sorry I was unreachable tonight. I just got about three of your missed calls. I was working on a problem set." On December 10, 2003: "The week has been pretty busy, so I haven't gotten a chance to do much work on the site or even think about it really, so I think it's probably best to postpone meeting until we have more to discuss. I'm also really busy tomorrow so I don't think I'd be able to meet then anyway." A week later: "Sorry I have not been reachable for the past few days. I've basically been in the lab the whole time working on a cs problem set which I'm still not finished with." On December 17, 2003, Zuckerberg met with the Winklevosses and Narendra in his dorm room, allegedly confirming his interest and assuring them that the site was almost complete. On the whiteboard in his room, Zuckerberg allegedly had scrawled multiple lines of code under the heading “Harvard Connection.” However, this would be the only time they saw any of his work. On January 8, 2004, Zuckerberg emailed to say he was "completely swamped with work [that] week" but had "made some of the changes ... and they seem[ed] to be working great" on his computer. He said he could discuss the site starting the following Tuesday, on January 13, 2004. On January 11, 2004, Zuckerberg registered the domain name thefacebook.com. On January 12, 2004, Zuckerberg e-mailed Eduardo Saverin, saying that the site [thefacebook.com
] was almost complete and that they should discuss marketing strategies. Two days later, on January 14, 2004, Zuckerberg met again with the HarvardConnection team. However, he allegedly never mentioned registering the domain name thefacebook.com
nor a competing social networking website, rather he reported progress on HarvardConnection, told them he would continue to work on it, and would email the group later in the week. On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched thefacebook.com
, a social network for Harvard students, designed to expand to other schools around the country.
On February 6, 2004, the Winklevosses and Narendra first-learned of thefacebook.com
while reading a press release in the Harvard student newspaper The Harvard Crimson. According to Gao, who looked at the HarvardConnection code afterward, Zuckerberg had left the HarvardConnection code incomplete and non-functional, with a registration that did not connect with the back-end connections. On February 10, 2004, the Winklevosses and Narendra sent Zuckerberg a cease and desist letter. They also asked the Harvard administration to act on what they viewed as a violation of the university’s honor code and student handbook. They lodged a complaint with the Harvard Administrative Board and university president Larry Summers; however, both viewed the matter to be outside the university's jurisdiction. President Summers advised the HarvardConnection team to take their matter to the courts.
Leaked instant messages
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Between November 30, 2003 and February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg exchanged a total of 52 emails with the HarvardConnection team and engaged in multiple in-person meetings. During the same period of time, Zuckerberg engaged in multiple electronic instant message communications with people outside the HarvardConnection team. On March 5, 2010, certain electronic instant messages from Mark Zuckerberg's hard drive were leaked to the public. On September 20, 2010, Facebook confirmed the authenticity of these leaked instant messages in a New Yorker article.
Later, a partnership allegedly formed between i2hub, a popular peer-to-peer service at the time, and ConnectU. The partnership, called The Winklevoss Chang Group, jointly advertised their properties through bus advertisements as well as press releases. i2hub integrated its popular software with ConnectU's website, as part of the partnership. The team also jointly launched several projects and initiatives.