April 4, 2013 at 2:47 PM ET
Just as Facebook announced its latest innovation — a complete Facebook interface for Android phones — the Internet remains abuzz over what could be ancient history for the social network. The personal website of a teenage Mark Zuckerberg may have been unearthed, first pointed out in a post at Hacker News.
Dating to at least 1999 (according to the Internet Archive) and fully functional at its original location on Angelfire, one of the Web's first free website hosts, the site is an entertaining look at the geeky high-schooler who would become the richest person of his generation.
"It could also be some strange, quasi-elaborate hoax meant to embarrass Zuck with Eminem references and a silly game called 'Cow-a-bungee,'" notes Motherboard. "But there's a lot of compelling evidence that this thing is legit." For one thing, the primary account holder of the AOL email listed is "ezooks," the one still used today by Zuck's dad, Dr. Edward Zuckerberg.
The bare-bones construction will be familiar to anyone who used to browse the web's many free hosts: Geocities, Tripod, and Angelfire, the one a young Zuckerberg allegedly chose for his page. These services allowed many early Internet users to create their own site without any web design skills — and it usually showed in the quality.
What appears to be Zuckerberg's page is no exception, but instead of animated GIFs and complaints about his teachers, it has his early experiments in coding and software. There's a molecule visualizer, a "fader" that would change the color of the text in AOL chat boxes, and perhaps most interestingly, "The Web," a sort of incredibly early social network.
The Web was a net of names, connected to one another based on how the people are connected in real life. In true '90s fashion, it seems to be made by Zuckerberg soliciting names and connections via email and hand-coding them in. Facebook has certainly improved on the concept, but it's interesting to see how early on the idea of a social network had taken hold.
You can explore the rest of Zuckerberg's alleged homepage yourself, although it may not function correctly; The code and applications were written for browsers and computers from more than a decade ago.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.