Facebook co-founder helps Obama build support on the web

By A. James Memmott

July 10, 2008 at 10:15am

Thanks to a Facebook founding friend, Barack Obama now has well over one million Facebook supporters.

That’s a lot of people to keep track of, but it’s also a lot of people to give money, to get out the vote and to help the campaign in many other ways.

As described in Monday’s New York Times, Chris Hughes, one of the founders of Facebook, has done much to make Obama the fund-raising and campaign-organizing power that he is on Facebook and other Internet sites.

Hughes, 24, joined the Obama organization in February 2007. He kept a connection with Facebook as a consultant, and he reportedly has stock options worth millions.

Under the direction of Joe Rospars, a veteran of the Internet-savvy 2004 Howard Dean presidential campaign, the Obama organization was eager at the time to make more use of the Internet.

Hughes had just the kind of experience Rospars needed, as he had been in on the wildly successful Facebook from the time it started at Harvard in February 2004.

Hughes roomed with Howard Zuckerberg, who created the site to link Harvard students with each other on the Internet. Hughes became a part of the company, serving as spokesman. Another Harvard student, Dustin Moskovitz, also joined the effort.

The site gradually expanded to other colleges and then high schools. It’s open to anyone 13 or over now and has 80 million users worldwide.

After moving to Chicago to help the Obama campaign, Hughes focused on making the website a true networking site.

“Hughes brought a growth strategy borrowed from Facebook’s founding principles,” wrote Brian Stelter in the Times. “Keep it real, and keep it local.”

Consequently, the site, which now has 900,000 members, works to connect people at the neighborhood level, making it easy for them organize and work together.

“The point is not to have a million people,” Rospars told the Times. “The point is to be able to chop up that million-person list into manageable chunks and organize them.”

Last month, the Obama campaign also added a page called Fight the Smears to It’s designed to combat what the campaign sees as mistruths about Obama, such as the allegation that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the U.S. (The website shows his birth certificate.)

Hughes used his blog on last month to celebrate the fact that Obama had over one million supporters on Facebook.

“There couldn’t be a better testament to the energy and enthusiasm of young people today,” he wrote.

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