Watch Mark Zuckerberg lecture a computer science class at Harvard - in 2005

Just as he was getting famous a decade ago, Facebook’s founder went back to his alma mater as a guest lecturer - and you can watch it all

Mark Zuckerberg lecturing Harvard’s CS50 in 2005

Mark Zuckerberg lecturing Harvard’s CS50 in 2005.

Credit: Harvard University

Harvard’s course CS50, Introduction to Computer Science, is now the largest undergraduate course at the school, with almost 900 enrolled in it this past fall. The school makes the lectures for the course freely available online, which makes it a great resource if you want to learn about computer science without actually having to get into (or pay for) Harvard. CS50’s archived videos are also great because of some of the historic lectures that they captured like, for example, the time ten years ago when Mark Zuckerberg came back to his alma mater to lecture to CS50.

In December, 2005 Zuckerberg, who enrolled at Harvard in 2002 and studied computer science and psychology before leaving to work on Facebook full time shortly after it launched in February 2004, came back as a guest lecturer for CS50 (which apparently he did in sandals). Facebook was still in its infancy, but growing fast. It was still only open to students at select colleges and high schools and it wasn’t until the following year, in September 2006, that Facebook was opened to the general public. So, at the time he spoke at Harvard, Zuckerberg was the founder of something quite promising, but not yet the behemoth it has since become.

Likewise, at the time, interest in computer science as a major wasn’t nearly what it is now. In the fall of 2006, the year after this video was made, enrollment in CS50 was only about 130 students. That, and Facebook’s youth, certainly helps to explain the very sparse crowd in attendance that you can see in the video.

Zuckerberg was there to, ostensibly, talk about computer science but he mostly spoke about the birth of Facebook and the early issues, both technical and otherwise, the company was dealing with at the time. During the Q&A, despite Zuckerberg’s repeated requests for whether anybody had any actual computer science-related questions, most of the questions from the students were about the business side of things.

The lecture and discussion go on for just over an hour and Zuckerberg gives us some interesting insight into the state of Facebook in those early days. Here are some highlights that I found interesting:

The whole video is a fascinating watch, particularly for tech history buffs. It’s also a great snapshot of a time before most of us had heard of Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg, if you can believe (or remember when) such a time ever existed. Watch and enjoy!

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