Happy Birthday Facebook and an Apology to Mark Zuckerberg

the facebook original welcome screen

Facebook's home screen - 2004

Late afternoon eight years ago today (February 4, 2004), in a small room at Harvard University, Mark Zuckerberg flipped a switch and TheFacebook.com went live. Did he know he created a revolutionary platform that would help define the term social media? Hardly. As reported by The Harvard Crimson five days later, the Mark Zuckerberg of then is not much different from the Mark Zuckerberg of today: talented, impatient and cocky.

Having come off creating Facemash.com, his take on the popular “Hot or Not“site where people submit their photo for public judgment (except that he hacked the photos of Harvard students from the schools records resulting in student backlash), he turned his talents towards a Friendster type site — but one based upon “weak tie” connections like school; dorm residence; subject classes rather than a desire to find a date (or mate).  Perceiving the University’s attempt to create a universal face book as moving too slow, he wrote the code for TheFacebook in his dorm room in one week. Talented; cocky; impatient.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg '06 (right) credits his roommates, Dustin A. Moskovitz '06 and Christopher R. Hughes '06 (left and middle) as the site's social directors.Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg '06 (right) credits his roommates, Dustin A. Moskovitz '06 and Christopher R. Hughes '06 (left and middle) as the site's social directors.

Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg '06 (right) credits his roommates, Dustin A. Moskovitz '06 and Christopher R. Hughes '06 (left and middle) as the site's social directors.

After five days TheFacebook had 650 subscribers. Just eight short years later, it counts over 845 million worldwide registrants.  Early on, Zuckerberg rejected an offer from Friendster to sell for $10 Million just a few months after going live. A bold move for a college sophomore.

From the Harvard Crimson 2004 article:
“While Zuckerberg promised that thefacebook.com would boast new features by the end of the week, he said that he did not create the website with the intention of generating revenue. “

In 2008, he resisted Yahoo!‘s offer of $1 Billion (a move many thought foolish). This past week, Facebook filed the paperwork for a $5 Billion public offering that would value the company at between $750 and $100 Billion.

And so I owe Mark Zuckerberg an apology. In 2010, TIME Magazine named him Person of the Year. I wrote an entry at the time stating that it was not the best choice available (see Mark Zuckerberg,TIME Magazine Person of the Year — But Not Mine). But with a 28% ownership stake, Zuckerberg stands to be worth $28 Billion. Yes, that’s billion, with a “B”. Obviously, I was wrong in 2010 and for that I apologize.

I hope he’ll forgive me.

Mark Zuckerberg,TIME Magazine Person of the Year — But Not Mine

Mark Zuckerberg TIME Person of the Year 2010In a year full of the famous and infamous, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg is TIME magazine‘s Person of the Year.

While you cannot debate that Zuckerberg and Facebook made news on a global basis in 2010, I don’t agree that his selection was the most worthy.

Let’s talk about impact. True, Facebook is the most impactful social network worldwide, but even with 500 million members, that’s still only about 7% of the world’s 6.9 billion population.  A large number to be sure, but why recognize him now? A hit movie? A killer ‘60 Minutes‘ appearance? The fact that the “enfant terrible” of social media appears to have finally grown up?

Newsworthy, yes, but surely others were more deserving. Love him or hate him, my choice is Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks site who have made a far more serious impact worldwide not only on government and the military, but also on the state of journalism itself. For that matter, strong arguments exist for former BP chairman Tony Hayward or, for group recognition, The Unemployed American. It wouldn’t be the first time a group was the “person”.

Take it from me, a former co-winner of TIME’s Person of the Year (2006).

Updated Feb 4, 2012: My apology to Mark Zuckerberg (among other things) 

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