Who is Mark Zuckerberg?

Mark Zuckerberg is the self-taught computer programmer and self-made multi-billionaire and the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook, Inc., which he founded in his Harvard University dorm room in 2004 along with Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin. According to Forbes, as of 2019, Zuckerberg's net worth is over $73 billion. Facebook claimed in 2019 that it had 2.38 billion monthly active Facebook users as of Q1 2019.

Key Takeaways

  • Mark Zuckerberg is the self-taught computer programmer and self-made multi-billionaire and the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook, Inc.
  • According to Forbes, as of 2019, Zuckerberg's net worth is over $73 billion.
  • Facebook claimed in 2019 that it had 2.38 billion monthly active Facebook users as of Q1 2019.

Understanding Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg was born May 14, 1984, in White Plains, New York. He showed an early affinity for computers; when he was 11, he took a graduate-level computer course, and when he was 12, he developed an instant-messaging application that his dad 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.com, a website for ranking the attractiveness of other Harvard students, and HarvardConnection.com. In 2004, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra sued him for allegedly stealing intellectual property from HarvardConnection.com. 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, and in the fall of 2006, Facebook opened to the general public. Yahoo offered to buy the company for $1 billion that year, but Zuckerberg refused.

In 2012, Facebook went public and became the most successful Internet IPO in history when it raised $16 billion. That same year, Facebook bought the photo-sharing site 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 Dec. 1, 2015, Zuckerberg published "A letter to our daughter" on Facebook, in which he 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. Our initial areas of focus will be personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities... 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, multiple media outlets including The New York Times and the Observer reported that the U.K.-based political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had paid an outside researcher to collected data on some 50 million Facebook users, without the knowledge of said users. 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 admitted that the data collection probably extended to as many as 87 million Facebook users, and not the 50 million as had been reported.

Zuckerberg was set to appear before a U.S. House of Representatives oversight panel on April 11, 2018, for a hearing on the "use and protection of user data." On April 9, two days ahead of the hearing, Zuckerberg released a written statement, which began by pointing out 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.

The statement 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 (2012, for $1 billion), WhatsApp (2014, for $19 billion), Oculus VR (2014, for $2 billion), and a number of other companies ranging from artificial intelligence to identification platforms.