A purely alpha-betic writing established itself in the eastern Mediterranean about 3300 years ago, which marked a seminal shift away from ‘pre-history’ and towards documentation, institutional memory, and social media. We will not be tracing the evolution of writing from proto-Sinaic carvings or Phoenician tablets to Adobe’s Creative Suite 5, but we would like to look at the evolution (or what many might call a ‘revolution’) of the social-media behemoth that is Facebook. Though not the first social medium (Don’t forget Napster, especially in its pre/extra-legal days!), it has become the king of the hill with its profiles and searches and synergies with so many other networks (like Twitter). Facebook recently broke 500 million subscribers, and it brags that over 50% of those subscribers are on Facebook at any given time. Impressive numbers and a market teeming with customers, clients, donors, and ad-hoc NGOs.
But Facebook has had growing pains as well. Security and privacy concerns for its users, a plethora of competitors (admittedly, many bubble up and fall away at a speed surprising even in the age of the 24-hour news cycle), and even the possibility that the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zukerberg does not even own Facebook. All this week we shall be looking at the Facebook phenomenon, as well as offering some tips and caveats for those considering using the social network as part of their personal and/or professional lives. We begin our saga with the recent media frenzy concerning the Facebook biopic/movie, and the allegations of Facebook having been stolen and/or sold away by Zuckerberg.
This October or November, after the record heat has surely been broken once and for all for 2010, David Fincher’s film “The Social Network” will be released. The biopic of the foundation of Facebook by Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes – all computer-science students at Harvard at the turn of the millennium. A copy of the movie trailer can be found interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC.). The movie purports to show a world of all-night coding and all-weekend geeks-as-sexy-men parties, which Zuckerberg has consistently denied in interviews. He understands the need a Hollywood movie has to juice up a story, “But, you know, I mean, the real story of Facebook is just that we’ve worked so hard for all this time… I mean, the real story is actually probably pretty boring. I mean, we just sat at our computers for six years and coded.” (From his
What seems pretty much established fact is that Zuckerberg and his friends wanted to pattern a website on his high-school’s printed alumni “let’s-stay-in-touch” gazette using the Harvard undergraduate database that was euphemistically called “The Face Book.” The earliest efforts of the Harvard crew were directed to their Harvard peers, then to other Boston universities, then high schools, then… Well, then to anyone brave enough to click the box stating they were over 13. The site has been free since its inception, and Zuckerberg claims it will remain so as long as he has say over the matter.
Some have in fact questioned his say over the matter, for Mark Zuckerberg has run into other issues besides the movie pumping up his sex life at Harvard. He has been challenged by a lawsuit (and a recently circulated contract from 2004) stating he signed over some 84% of his site ownership to Paul Ceglia, the man who claims to have paid Mark to develop the original site. The 84% stake comes from a clause in the ‘contract’ stating that Mr. Ceglia got a percentage of the stake in the website for each day it came in behind schedule, which it did by about six weeks. The excerpt of Zuckerberg’s interview with Diane Sawyer below shows how this contract dispute has overshadowed the celebration of Facebook’s 500-millionth user.
Flash video excerpt of interview
Thus far, Facebook is a privately owned company, so it need not release its profit figures or investments or earnings potential (although in the video clip above Zuckerberg is open to the idea of an IPO at some point, which would force disclosure of such figures). But most sources quote a net worth of $15 billion. That a few enemies would be made along the way is not so surprising, and such a story seems ripe for the Hollywood treatment, even if the parodies of the Hollywood treatment are already running rampant. But Facebook has developed other enemies, nay-sayers, and skeptics. Tomorrow we will look at some of the criticism that has come to the world’s largest social-networking site, including the charge that it is killing off social networking for the sake of advertising.