Before Mark Zuckerberg was battling Russians trying to influence presidential elections on Facebook, he was jerry-rigging his “away” status on AIM.
AOL’s iconic instant messenger service is shutting down after 20 years. As with many Americans of his generation, AIM was a pivotal social tool for the Facebook founder. Living at a distance from his classmates meant that AIM was Zuckerberg’s main form of socialization with friends after school.
“I developed a lot of empathy for the nuances of how people expressed emotions and ideas online, and I became very focused on improving how this worked,” Zuckerberg wrote in a public Facebook post Saturday. “For example, I didn't like that I had no control of whether AIM told my friends I was active online, because sometimes I just wanted to code without being interrupted unless someone I really wanted to chat with signed on.”
Since this was Mark Zuckerberg and not, say, a typical teen, he built some code to help.
“I hacked together a tool that let me set myself as if I'd been idle for a long time, even if I was actually at my computer,” Zuckerberg said. “Because of this, Facebook chat today always lets you turn off your online activity indicator.”
The quest to make a better version of AIM for his father’s business also led Zuckerberg to create a sort of Facebook 1.0, called ZuckNet, that allowed his father to chat one-on-one with colleagues and also “broadcast an update to everyone in the office at the same time.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.