Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg grew up outside of New York City and dropped out of Harvard after founding Facebook.
He's built it into a $383 billion company while weathering numerous scandals and controversies.
Zuckerberg is expecting his third daughter with his wife of a decade, Priscilla Chan.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg has weathered success and controversy in equal parts over the past 18 years.
With a net worth of $53 billion, the millennial CEO is credited with creating a social network that has more monthly active users than any single country in the world has people, and his majority voting rights give him complete control of the company — which also means he's often the focal point of any backlash.
As it grew from a social network called Facebook to a metaverse company named Meta, the company that Zuckerberg built has weathered scandal after scandal even as it saw seemingly unstoppable growth. But things have shifted in 2022 as user numbers stalled out for the first time and Zuckerberg's net worth plunged.
At the same time, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have poured billions into curing the world's diseases, have amassed a sprawling real estate empire in Hawaii, and have expanded their family to include two young daughters — with a third on the way.
Here's a look at the timeline of Zuckerberg's career, from his early life in a New York suburb to his role as one of the most powerful CEOs in the world.
While he's now a titan of Silicon Valley, Mark Zuckerberg was raised in the quaint town of Dobbs Ferry, New York. He was born to Edward and Karen Zuckerberg, a dentist and psychiatrist, respectively. He has three siblings: Randi, Donna, and Arielle.
Source: New York Magazine
A precocious child, Mark at age 12 created a messaging program called "Zucknet" using Atari BASIC. He also coded computer games for his friends at a young age.
Source: New York Magazine
While attending high school at the renowned Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, he built an early music streaming platform, which both AOL and Microsoft showed interest in. Still a teen, he rejected offers for an acquisition or a job.
Source: New York Magazine
He wasn't just a computer nerd, though. Zuck loved the classics — "The Odyssey" and the like — and he became captain of his high school fencing team.
Source: The New Yorker
Soon after Zuckerberg started at Harvard University in 2002, he earned a reputation as a skilled developer. His first hit was "Face mash," a hot-or-not-style app that used the pictures of his classmates that he hacked from the school administration's dormitory ID files.
Source: The New Yorker
Zuckerberg met his now-wife, Priscilla Chan, at Harvard in 2003. Chan told Savannah Guthrie on "Today" that they met at a frat party thrown by Zuckerberg's fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi.
Zuckerberg started "The Facebook" with several friends out of his dorm room, and dropped out of school in 2005, after his sophomore year, to focus on the social network full-time.
Source: The New Yorker
Zuckerberg wasn't always the polished statesman he is now. In Facebook's early days, he carried business cards that read, "I'm CEO, B----."
Zuckerberg's company raised its $12.7 million Series A round of funding while he was barely of legal drinking age.
In 2010, Time magazine named Zuckerberg "Person of the Year."
Not many tech CEOs get to see themselves immortalized on the big screen, but the 2010 movie "The Social Network" put a dramatized version of Facebook's founding story in theaters. The film earned eight Academy Award nominations, but Zuckerberg strongly maintains that many of its details are incorrect.
Source: New York Magazine
Throughout Facebook's rise to greatness, Zuckerberg also spent his free time studying Chinese. By the fall of 2014, his Mandarin was so good that he managed to hold a 30-minute Q&A in the language.
Zuckerberg took Facebook public on May 18, 2012. The IPO raised $16 billion, making it the biggest tech IPO in history at the time. Zuckerberg became the 29th-richest person on the planet overnight.
The day after Facebook went public, Zuckerberg and Chan got married. The relatively low-key event was actually a surprise wedding — guests thought they were celebrating Chan's medical school graduation.
Zuckerberg designed Chan's ruby ring himself. Chan walked down the aisle with Beast, the couple's Hungarian Puli, who they adopted in 2011.
The two honeymooned in Italy, flying in on a private jet and staying at a five-star hotel, Portrait Suites, where rooms started at 800 euros per night. But they still kept it casual at times when looking for something to eat — paparazzi spotted the couple eating at McDonald's while overseas.
In 2015, Zuckerberg and Chan announced the birth of a baby girl named Max. "There is so much joy in our little family," Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook.
They also announced their plan to sell 99% of Zuckerberg's Facebook stock over time— worth about $45 billion at the time — to fund the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The initiative funnels money toward issues like personalized learning, curing diseases, and connecting people.
Even before announcing this massive new effort, Zuckerberg and Chan had committed $1.6 billion to philanthropic causes, including donations to the Center for Disease Control and the San Francisco General Hospital, which was eventually renamed after Zuckerberg.
In September 2016, Chan and Zuckerberg pledged $3 billion to curing the world's diseases by the end of this century. "Can we help scientists to cure, prevent or manage all diseases within our children's lifetime?" Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. "I'm optimistic we can."
In May 2017, Chan and Zuckerberg announced that they had another baby on the way. Their second daughter, August, was born during the month she was named after.
Zuckerberg is one of a very small group of people who is worth more billions of dollars than years he has lived. Still, he's far from flashy about it — the CEO famously wore only a hoodie or a gray t-shirt with jeans for over a decade, although he's switched it up in recent years.
In 2014, when he was the third-richest man in the world, he bought a black Volkswagen GTI with a manual transmission, which cost around $30,000.
However, he did reportedly pay for an Italian Pagani Huayra supercar around the same time. The car starts at a cool $1.3 million.
Zuckerberg also likes to spend his money on privacy. In October 2014, he shelled out around $100 million for 700 acres of secluded land on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. He's since amassed a total of 1,500 acres, though his presence on the island remains controversial among locals.
In Palo Alto, California, Zuckerberg reportedly bought his 5,617-square-foot home for $7 million in 2011, and then spent an additional $45 million on the four houses and land around it for the sake of privacy.
He also bought a $10 million mansion in San Francisco, and then spent more than $1 million on remodeling and additions — like a $60,000 greenhouse — that took a year to build and reportedly disturbed neighbors in the process. He sold the property in 2022 for $31 million.
Zuckerberg hasn't been afraid to spend his company's money either. Facebook made some major acquisitions in the 2010s, including $1 billion for Instagram, $19 billion for WhatsApp, and $2 billion for Oculus.
Today, the company's family of apps are used by more than 3 billion people each month.
Source: Venture Beat
In May 2017, Zuckerberg returned to Harvard as its youngest commencement speaker ever. During his speech, Zuckerberg touched on a range of topics, including climate change, universal basic income, criminal justice reform, and "modernizing democracy" by allowing people to vote online. He also received an honorary doctorate at the ceremony.
Zuckerberg frequently meets with high-profile figures and celebrities, including Snoop Dogg, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and former President Barack Obama.
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, Facebook was accused of spreading misinformation that led to Donald Trump's win. The CEO brushed off the claims: "Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook ... influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea."
But about a year later, the first evidence of Facebook's role emerged. The company revealed that Russian parties spent around $100,000 on roughly 3,000 ads, and that 126 million Americans likely saw Russia-funded posts intended to sway them.
Zuckerberg has always been passionate about political issues, but he kicked up his rhetoric significantly around the time that Trump was elected. However, he still worked behind the scenes to communicate with Trump, including attending private dinners at the White House.
In 2017, Zuckerberg announced that his personal challenge for the year — an annual tradition of his since 2009 — was to visit every US state. The stops he made sparked speculation that he had plans to run for president one day, but he denied the rumors.
In March 2018, data analytics company Cambridge Analytica was revealed to have harvested data from over 50 million Facebook users' profiles — a number Facebook later said was closer to 87 million — using it to target voters during the 2016 election. The group was hired by the Trump campaign.
Zuckerberg was called on to appear in front of lawmakers in two testimonies that lasted five hours each. Zuckerberg left with a laundry list of requests for answers and action items.
Facebook's stock tumbled in the months following the congressional hearings and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. At its lowest, its stock was down 18% from what it had been before the story broke.
Facebook also faced accusations in 2018 that its moderation efforts weren't adequate in stopping the proliferation of hate speech and disinformation on its network. Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were cited as contributing to political violence and deliberate misinformation in Myanmar, India, Germany, the Philippines, Brazil, and more.
In September 2018, Instagram cofounders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger abruptly announced they were leaving Facebook. It was later reported they had left amid "growing tensions" with Zuckerberg, and that the pair was fighting with Facebook leadership over Instagram's "autonomy."
The departure of Instagram's cofounders was quickly followed with scathing remarks from WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton, who detailed disagreements with Facebook executives over user privacy. Both WhatsApp cofounders had left the company earlier that year.
To add to an already scandal-ridden year, Facebook announced in September 2018 it had been hacked. Around 30 million users had their personal information compromised, making it the worst hack in Facebook's 15-year history.
In 2019 and 2020, Facebook spent around $23 million on personal security for Zuckerberg and his family. In 2018, his security costs had nearly doubled in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
In October 2019, Zuckerberg was once again called on to testify in front of Congress — this time, about Facebook's plans for its Libra digital currency. Congressional members also grilled him on the company's content moderation practices and its lack of diversity.
For 2020, Zuckerberg set a goal for the decade. "My goal for the next decade isn't to be liked but to be understood," Zuckerberg said. After the criticism it faced in dealing with political misinformation in 2016, the company geared up for a "tough year" with the 2020 presidential election.
Zuckerberg testified before Congress yet again in 2020 — alongside Tim Cook, Jeff Bezos, and Sundar Pichai — over matters of antitrust. Facebook was later hit with two antitrust suits that sought to break up the company.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Zuckerberg attempted to quash misinformation about the virus and vaccines on Facebook, hosted regular town halls with virus experts, and, through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, contributed millions to finding COVID-19 treatments.
Early on in 2021, following the violent insurrection at the US Capitol, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was suspending Trump indefinitely after he used the platform to "condone rather than condemn the actions of his supporters." The company's Oversight Board later upheld Trump's ban indefinitely, though it could be lifted in 2023.
Facebook experienced yet another major data breach in 2021. This time, 533 million Facebook users' phone numbers and personal data were leaked online.
Facebook announced in October 2021 that it would change its corporate name to Meta to reflect its ambition to become "metaverse first." The company began trading under the new stock ticker MVRS on December 1, 2021.
In February, Meta hit a new milestone, though not a positive one: Facebook's user numbers shrunk for the first time in its history, sending the stock plummeting.
Zuckerberg's longtime second-in-command, COO Sheryl Sandberg, announced in June that she would leave the company. "Fourteen years later, it is time for me to write the next chapter of my life," she wrote on Facebook.
Zuckerberg's wealth skyrocketed over the course of the last few years, but has taken a major hit in 2022. Though he started the year with a $125 billion fortune, it's since dropped about 55%. Zuckerberg is currently the 20th-richest person in the world.
Zuckerberg announced in September that he and Chan are expecting their third child together. "Lots of love," Zuckerberg wrote in an Instagram post, accompanied by a selfie of Chan and him. "Happy to share that Max and August are getting a new baby sister next year!"
Paige Leskin contributed to an earlier version of this story.
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