Who Is Mark Zuckerberg?

Mark Zuckerberg is a self-taught computer programmer and co-founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Facebook (FB), which he founded in his Harvard University dorm room in 2004 along with Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, and Eduardo Saverin.

Facebook reported 2.74 billion monthly active users in the third quarter of 2020. According to Forbes, Zuckerberg's net worth as of December 2020 was about $100 billion.

Key Takeaways

  • Mark Zuckerberg is a self-taught computer programmer and the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Facebook.
  • According to Forbes, as of December 2020, Zuckerberg's net worth was about $100 billion.
  • Facebook reported 2.74 billion monthly active users in the third quarter of 2020, making it the biggest social network in the world.

Understanding Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg was born May 14, 1984, in White Plains, New York, and showed an early affinity for computers. He learned the BASIC programming language at a nearby college, and at the age of 12 he developed an instant-messaging application that his father used in his dental office.

Zuckerberg attended Harvard University but dropped out after his sophomore year to focus on developing Facebook. The site grew out of two earlier ventures: FaceMash, a website for ranking the attractiveness of other Harvard students, and HarvardConnection.com, an online social networking platform.

In 2004, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra, the three credited founders of HarvardConnection.com, sued Zuckerberg for allegedly stealing intellectual property from the website. They reached a multi-million dollar settlement of cash and stock options in 2008. The Winklevoss twins tried to reopen the lawsuit in 2011, but the court denied their request.

Facebook IPO

In mid-2005, Facebook raised $12.7 million in venture capital and expanded access to hundreds of universities and high schools. One year later, the social network opened to the general public and Yahoo! offered $1 billion to buy the company—a bid that was swiftly rejected by Zuckerberg.

In 2012, Facebook went public and became the most successful internet initial public offering (IPO) in history when it raised $16 billion. That same year, Facebook bought the photo-sharing application Instagram, and Zuckerberg married Priscilla Chan in a surprise wedding the day after the IPO.

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

Zuckerberg has made headlines for his philanthropy, including his 2010 donation of $100 million to help schools in Newark, N.J. In 2014, the publication Philanthropy ranked Zuckerberg and Chan the most generous American donors of the previous year, after they donated 18 million shares of Facebook stock to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, in Mountain View, Calif. 

On December 1, 2015, Zuckerberg and Chan published a letter to their daughter Max, in which they announced the creation of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative "to join people across the world to advance human potential and promote equality for all children in the next generation." In the post, Zuckerberg and Chan said the "initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities" and that "we will give 99% of our Facebook shares—currently about $45 billion—during our lives to advance this mission."

Controversy and Cambridge Analytica

Facebook has been accused, nearly since its inception, of collecting and selling the personal data, posts, and instant messages of its users. These accusations mounted shortly after the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections, with some alleging that U.S. voters had been under the influence of targeted ads financed by Russia. 

In March 2018, media outlets including The New York Times and The Observer reported that U.K.-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had paid an outside researcher to collect data on 50 million Facebook users without their permission. The New York Times reported that Cambridge Analytica's goal was to use the data for its trademark "psychographic modeling," with the aim of "reading voters' minds" and potentially influencing the outcome of elections. 

In April 2018, Facebook disclosed that the information of 87 million users had been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, and not the 50 million as earlier reported.

Later that month, Zuckerberg appeared before on Capitol Hill to testify before House and Senate committees about Facebook's use of consumer data. In prepared remarks before the Senate, Zuckerberg noted that Facebook had been beneficial in connecting people during the #MeToo movement and various disasters. The statement went on to say that Zuckerberg and Facebook heard about Cambridge Analytica's involvement from the media, just like everyone else. Zuckerberg also outlined actions that Facebook intended to undertake to prevent future incidents of this nature, including "safeguarding our platform," "investigating other apps," and "building better controls."

Facebook Acquisitions

Facebook has acquired dozens of companies over the years, including Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, WhatsApp for $22 billion in cash and shares in 2014, Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014, and a number of other companies ranging from artificial intelligence (AI) to identification platforms.