Friday, February 18, 2011

Spite, Mark Zuckerberg and the Origins of Facebook

It's been quite a busy few days.

First, there was the tour we had with ClubTravelNOW!TM over the last weekend where we saw the 16th International Hot Air Balloon Festival and got to go around Pampanga on a very satisfying food tour. (See pics from that trip here.)

Then there's the various things I've had to do for this and my other blogs: learning a few tricks here and there, wrapping up my Facebook ad testing, devising plans to monetize my sites, discovering new apps I can use, and catching up on my readings (finally giving my Kindle some quality time).

Just before writing this post, I had finished reading Ben Mezrich's "The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal". "The Social Network" - the movie that starred Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, and Justin Timberlake - was based on this book. The film, to my estimation is around 85% faithful to the book. I don't know how close the book actually is to the true events, but in any case, it is a very riveting read, an interesting glimpse at the birth and growth of Facebook amidst all the S-M-G and B that the title of the book suggests.

Sex. Money. Genius. Betrayal.

Such big loaded words to associate with the founding of Facebook.


Maybe it was all for commercial points (or maybe SEO) because, to me at least, the book nor the movie, isn't so much about that.

Sure there is sex because, well, Mark Zuckerberg and his former best friend Eduardo Saverin were enticed by the idea of a website that would allow them to get laid (they did get laid). Zuckerberg in an interview refutes that that was the motivation behind it though.

Money - well, they didn't start Facebook for the money; Saverin provided most of it in the beginning (to get it started, buy some servers and such), until Sean Parker brought in the VCs that led to the million and eventually billion bucks of the company.

Genius - it's all over the place. For one, they were at Harvard (then later Stanford and the Silicon Valley). And all of the characters had such exceptional supply of brainpower: Zuckerberg providing most of the programming genius, Saverin with his business acumen, and Parker's own rockstar geekiness (he gained notoriety for Napster and Plaxo) and he is brilliant at spotting a goldmine (he sort of brought Zuckerberg and Facebook to the big leagues).

But as for betrayal, I don't know. Maybe there was, maybe there wasn't.

Parker might have orchestrated it - the part where Saverin's ownership in the company he co-founded got diluted. Zuckerberg's sin is that he allowed it to happen. (Or maybe, like he always had been with financial matters, he didn't really give it much thought - the same nonchalance with which he turned down a million dollars from Microsoft for a music program he made in high school). The Winklevoss twins may have thought they were betrayed by Zuckerberg - after he came up with Facebook while he was also supposedly working on a similar site that the twins had commissioned him to do. (But no, they didn't really pay him, he didn't sign any agreement with them; and if it was really their idea, why hadn't they made it already? - such was Zuckerberg's defense, among others.)

After watching the movie, and even after reading the book, I come away more amazed than anything - that someone as young as Zuckerberg could come up with something like Facebook that totally takes the Internet universe by storm. The problems he seems to have attracted around him I take to be a result of his social ineptness. Imagine that: Socially inept, and yet the God of Social Networking.

Were his actuations or omissions really a product of spite?

That's the billion dollar question.

Book Recommendation:
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal

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