by Steffan Antonas

… However we have heard very few stories about Zuckerberg and the inspiration behind Facebook during the period prior to February 4th, 2004, the day he launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room. In this post we tell that story. …

You may be surprised to hear that while Harvard was fertile ground for the launch of Facebook, the seed of the concept was likely planted in Zuckerberg in high school. You never hear about Zuckerberg’s alma mater Phillips Exeter Academy in stories because Harvard was where the action really started (and the Harvard name, to some extent, validates Zuckerberg’s smarts and makes for a more sensational story). But in fact, the time that Zuckerberg spent at the academy from 2000 to 2002 likely had more influence on the name and initial concept of Facebook than any of his classmates at Harvard.

Phillips Exeter Academy (or “Exeter”) is a private boarding school for grades 9 to 12, located in Exeter, New Hampshire. The prestigious prep school is a member of the Ten Schools Admission Organization, which includes such famous boarding schools as Phillips Andover, Deerfield Academy, St. Paul’s, and Choate Rosemary Hall. Like the other “Big Tens,” Exeter has a tight-knit boarding community that lives on campus full time. Students refer to themselves as “Exonians” and have a strong group identity rooted in a rich culture of customs and tradition. …

An Exonian for two years, Zuckerberg had plenty of time to observe and participate in the social culture and rhythms ingrained in Exeter’s boarding lifestyle. Every year, the school says goodbye to a few hundred students and welcomes a few hundred more. Zuckerberg enrolled in the fall of his junior year and, like every new and returning student, received his own copy of Exeter’s student directory, “The Photo Address Book,” which students affectionately referred to as (you guessed it!) “The Facebook.”…

But the story doesn’t end there. In Zuckerberg’s senior year, the student council, headed by student body president Kris Tillery, successfully lobbied the administration to have the school’s IT department put the full contents of Exeter’s Photo Address Book online. By the time Zuckerberg graduated, the website was put up at http://student.exeter.edu/facebook, with the URL directory (i.e. “facebook”) named after the students’ pet name for the physical book and effectively shortened to something useful. …

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