A long-simmering dispute over the origins of Facebook is set to erupt later this month at a federal court hearing about whether Mark Zuckerberg, the young web mogul now being feted by media honchos, stole the original code for his booming social network from three Harvard classmates.
The lawsuit, filed by brothers Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra, accuses Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 23-year-old C.E.O, of stealing the source code, design, and business plan for Facebook in 2003 when he briefly worked in the Harvard dorms as a programmer for their own fledgling social-networking site, now known as ConnectU.
The plaintiffs have demanded that Facebook be shut down and that full control of the site – and its profits – be turned over to them.
The hearing comes just as Facebook is exploding into the social networking stratosphere and Zuckerberg is the toast – in absentia – of this week’s elite media ball at the annual Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.
“This lawsuit goes to the core of the assets that Facebook claims to own,” said Eric Goldman, Director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. “The ConnectU guys are clearly ticked off, and they seem willing to spend a lot of money to pursue this.”