The Social Network, a movie about the founding of the company Facebook, has been a critical success. As of this writing, it has a 97% aggregate score on Rotten Tomatoes. With all movies that are semi-biographical and based on real life, there’s a question of what is fact and fiction in the movie. The following highlights many of the questions movie viewers have had.
WARNING: Some of the descriptions below may contain movie spoilers.
Did Mark Zuckerberg really create a website called Facemash?
Yes. You can read an article about Mark Zuckerberg’s ordeal with it at The Crimson. One inaccuracy compared to the movie is that the real Facemash had pictures of men and women, not just women.
Is Erica Albright real?
The answer is partially yes and partially no. The blog entry that Mark Zuckerberg writes during the early part of the movie is read nearly verbatim from his real life Livejournal blog (albeit the name of the girl is different). It is unknown who she really was. She could have been an ex-girlfriend or just some random person in one of his classes, only the real life Mark Zuckerberg can really say.
Did Sean Parker really discover Facebook after a one-night stand?
No. He discovered it through a roommate.
Did Sean Parker, the founder of Napster, really help Facebook get off the ground?
Yes. He he did help get Facebook it’s first rounds of funding.
Did Sean Parker get arrested for drugs?
Yes. He was arrested for cocaine possession, however it was not during the timeline suggested in the movie and not in California. He eventually resigned after his arrest.
Did Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker really screw over Eduardo Saverin?
There are always two sides to the story. The movie portrays Eduardo as the victim, with Mark and Sean screwing him over. Eduardo did have issues obtaining funding and building a business model for Facebook while he was in New York. According to some reports, Eduardo was becoming a problem when the company needed to grow, so much so that ousting him and dealing with a lawsuit later was considered a better option. What folks don’t know is if Eduardo naively signed his rights away or if Mark lied to him. That’s the part that only a few people really know.
Did Mark Zuckerberg really steal his idea from Divvya Narendra, Tyler Winklevoss, and Cameron Winklevoss?
Ideas for products aren’t generally protected by law, only copyrights and patents are. What is known is that Divvya, Tyler, and Cameron did meet with Mark Zuckerberg to discuss the programming and setup of Harvardconnection/ConnectU. Mark did have access to atleast some internal information for the project, so one can surmise that ideas or possibly even code could have been taken. The truth is really known to just a few.
Did Facebook really settle with all the above named parties?
Although the amount and details of the settlements are questionable, and there is still some possible pending litigation, the ending information is accurate. The parties did settle out of court for about those amounts.
Are Final Clubs real?
Yes, they are basically fraternities.
How technically accurate are the programming/hacking scenes?
It’s hard to say, since there were only little bits and pieces of spoken words and screenshots on the computers. However, myself (I’m a professional software engineer) and many other colleagues agree that they are atleast reasonably realistic unlike most movies. Many of the technical terms were real and the code shown on screenshots seemed legitimate enough. Several times, a few technical terms were used together in a sentence that didn’t quite make any technical sense. One can assume Aaron Sorkin put together some technical terms while not understanding the underlying meaning.
Who else in the movie is real?
Peter Thiel is a real venture capitalist who helped fund Facebook early on. He is most famously known for co-founding Paypal. Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes were both early founders/employees of Facebook. Dustin Moskovitz later left the company to found Asana.com. Chris Hughes left the company as well to pursue other ventures. He was heavily involved in President Barack Obama’s online campaign in 2008.
Peter Sciretta, “The Truth Behind The Social Network”, Slashfilm
Luke O’Brien, “Facebook Fakery”, Slate
Nicholas Carlson, “http://www.businessinsider.com/is-the-social-network-true-2010-10”, BusinessInsider
Nicholas Carlson, “The Facebook Movie Is An Act Of Cold-Blooded Revenge – New, Unpublished IMs Tell The Real Story”, Businessinsider
Nicholas Carlson, “At Last — The Full Story Of How Facebook Was Founded”, Businessinsider