Facebook is the biggest thing of the century, next to Google of course. I don’t use Facebook very often, I tried not to get addicted to it, although I know a lot of people who do and update their status every hour. There are similar social networking sites like Friendster or Myspace before Facebook, but none bears the ease of use features and the interaction one gets from Facebook. A lot of crime and bad emotions have occurred through the use of Facebook. In the papers I have read about the case where someone changed their status from being in a relationship to single, or block someone out from the list, or say something inappropriate and get bashed up or murdered for it. Or one case in the UK recently, Headmasters are taking action against teachers who posted indecent pictures of themselves on Facebook, so on and so forth… Facebook has created quite a stir.
It’s down to purpose and intention of the users really. I’m just happy to make use of it as a tool to get hold of friends and families more easily. Whatever the good, the bad and the ugly of facebook, online social networking has never been this easy and it looks like it will be around for awhile.
But do you know that the founding of Facebook has its ugly history? The tool that is based on principles of transparency and friendliness actually was born out of in-fighting and power struggles that caused rifts on friendships? Do you know the founder of Facebook was an extremely socially inept IT geek?
It is a general perception that IT geeks are socially inept, not all of course, the statement is a generalisation. But Mark Zuckerberg, the kid behind the creation of Facebook was truly socially inept. The book The Accidental Billionaires, mostly based on first account of Eduardo Saverin, Facebook co-founder, describes Zuckerberg as quiet, dead-pan and slept through important meetings with advertisers in his early days (page 144). Instead of walking up to Cameron Windlevoss and say hi like a man, he sprinted away (may be the guilty conscience at play here) (page 164). Mark didn’t even bother to fill up bank account paperworks as joint account and co-signatory with Eduardo (page 195).The good thing is Mark didn’t have the capacity or interest to hate anyone (page 205). All he had in focus was working on his codes and launching the Facebook.
I will risk revealing the spoilers of this book. A lot of what goes on about the founders of Facebook are public knowledge anyway but if this is the first time you are hearing this, here’s what happened…..
Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg – an awkward maths prodigy and a painfully shy computer genius – were the archetypal social misfits of polished, elite Harvard. Yet one day master-hacker Mark created a rateable database of female students, which was so popular it crashed the university’s server. Narrowly escaping expulsion, the two friends refocused the site into something less controversial – ‘The Facebook’. Mark wanted to call the early version of this as Facemash. Thank goodness they have the good sense of just leaving it as Facebook. It spread like wildfire across campuses, around the country and beyond. Suddenly everyone – from hot girls to venture capitalists – wanted to know Eduardo and Mark.
Before the creation of Facebook, Mark has been toying with the idea far earlier than the Winklevoss twins and the twin’s good friend Dviya Narendra’s idea of launching the HarvardConnection (later renamed to ConnectU). Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss are a pair of identical twins. They are also Olympic hopefuls for rowing event. They competed in the men’s pair rowing event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Their father was a self made man who runs a successful consulting firm. Dviya Narendra is the son of two immigrant doctors from India. In high school, he scored a near-perfect on the SAT. In 2004, Divya graduated from Harvard, cum laude in applied mathematics. He is currently attending Northwestern University School of Law and the Kellog School of Management for his MBA, expected to graduate in 2012.
Since the departure of the programmer Victor Gua from HarvardConnection project, The Winklevoss twins and Narendra was looking for someone to continue the work and Mark Zuckerberg agreed to take over the job by verbal agreement. Mark also has his hands on all the source code and programmes of the HarvardConnection project.
Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, Mark stalled the development of HarvardConnection, instead he launched his Facebook project out on the campus before finishing HarvardConnection.
The problem didn’t stop there, from the launch of Facebook as campus based social network to the point where it got its financial backing from Peter Thiel (The founder of PayPal) the cracks between the friendship of Mark and Eduardo deepens.
Those simple college-kids arguments spiralled into out-and-out legal wars. The great irony is that Facebook succeeded by bringing people together – but its very success tore two best friends apart.
There lie the questions I asked myself after reading the book:
- Did Mark plagarise and use the HarvardConnection source code to further advance his own Facebook project?
- Eduardo wanted to finish college and pursue his internship with investment banks in New York, it looked as if he places his priority in finishing his education above being fully committed to Facebook. Was he foolish to insist that he will be based in New York while the rest of the team are based in The Silicon Valley?
- Eduardo funded the project through his own money before any big money from VCs funding came along, does he deserve the same credit as Mark Zuckerberg who has the brain to develop the site but have no financial investment in the project?
This is what I think. I think Mark Zuckerberg operates on a different level of integrity.
“Certainly, Mark saw himself as leagues beyond the Winklevoss twins. Who were they to try to harness his abilities? Just a couple of jocks who thought they ruled the world. Maybe they did rule the social world, but in the land of Website and computers – Mark was king.” – page 82
“This wasn’t how the world was supposed to work. Tyler and Cameron had grown up believing that order mattered. Rules mattered. You worked hard, you got what you deserved. Maybe in Mark’s hacker world – his computer-geek worldview – things were different. You just did whatever the hell you wanted, you launched prank sites like Facemash, you hacked into Harvard’s computers, you thumbed your nose at authority and mocked people right in the pages of the Crimson (Harvard Student papers) – but that simply wasn’t acceptable”. – page 106
“Mark’s own argument – that there are an infinite number of designs for a chair, but that doesn’t mean everyone who makes a chair is stealing from someone else. If anything, they were all borrowing from Friendster when it came right down to it; ConnectU Twins hadn’t invented the wheel, that was for sure. Mark had done nothing wrong, nothing that every other entrepreneur in the Valley hadn’t done a dozen times before.” – page 201
With 3 face-to-face meet-ups and 52 email exchanges, I think Mark stringed the Winklevoss twins along for far too long. Maybe Mark is socially inept, he doesn’t know what clear communication means, that you either do the job you promised to or refused outright the intention of not wanting to take the HarvardConnection website further. Unless he has much to gain by stringing the twins along. Whatever the gain may be, Mark doesn’t operate at the same honour code as the twins do.
Eduardo Saverin deserves the treatment that he got. In fact he got some financial gain out of Facebook because he invested his money in the first place.
A surprising entree to the whole story was Sean Parker. The founder of Napster. I am not going to reveal what happened at the end, because the ending is just as good, if not great. 😉
Another view of looking at the whole Facebook debacle is that once you get rich, friends and strangers will clamour for a piece of the pie, even the remotely associated. So it may look as if Mark’s friends wanting to leech off him to get their share of fame and money. There are some truths about this, but I have read many true accounts about the founding of famous technology companies, and they are all done through hard work, sheer genius, getting the right funding and excel with excellent teamwork between founders and employees. This is the first one which is shrouded with so many scandals and dispute, and I wonder why?
My Verdict: 4.5/5
As juicy as tabloid newspaper, News of the World.
Here’s the book title again:
The Accidental Billionaires – Sex, Money, Betrayal and the Founding of Facebook.
There is definitely mention of a lot money, multiple betrayals, but not much sex.
The book reads like a thriller. It is this kind of real-life thriller that draws my full attention and I finished the book within 2 days. The juicy nature of the true story more than compensates for any flaw one might detect about the writing (not that there is any). Before I read fiction, I was reading lots of techie entrepreneurs’ life stories. Michael Dell, Bill Gates, the founding of Google etc. and they all fascinate me. Because Facebook is such a big part of everyone’s life, it pays to know what goes behind the incorporation of the company. I highly recommend this book, even if you are not into techie stuff, because it is juicy. 😉
Paperback. [258 pages], Arrow Books 2010, Settings: America, Source: Library Loot. Finished reading on: 1st February 2010.
Are Havard graduates suppose to look this good? Better looking than the actors who are playing them in my view!
Speaking about the movie, The Social Network, has garnered 8 Oscar nominations. The nominations include best: picture, actor, director, adapted screenplay, cinematography, film editing, soundtrack and sound mixing. The 83rd annual awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, February 27 at 5 pm Pacific Standard Time.
Despite spokespeople for the real social network’s continued insistence that the movie doesn’t represent a factual history of the company, people have come to regard the film as a true story. Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has publicly said that his personal friends have told him they got inspired by the movie, and it seems that most people identified with the character portraying the CEO, Jesse Eisenberg.
Have you watch the movie? How do you think The Social Network will fare in the eight categories in which the film received Oscar nominations?
About the writer:
Ben Mezrich (born 1969) is an American author from Princeton, New Jersey. He graduated magna-cum-laude with a degree in Social Studies from Harvard University in 1991. Some of his books have been written under the pseudonym Holden Scott.
Mezrich is best known for his first non-fiction work, Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions (ISBN 0-7432-4999-2). This book tells the story of a group of students from MIT who bet on blackjack games using a sophisticated card counting system, earning millions of dollars at casinos in Las Vegas and other gambling centers in the United States and the Caribbean. The story was made into the movie 21, released in 2008.
In this book, The Accidental Billionaires Mezrich said:
‘I have tried to keep the chronology as close to exact as possible. In some instances, details of settings and descriptions have been changed or imagined’.
The book came into being when he was introduced to Eduardo Saverin by Will McMullen. Mark Zuckerberg, as is his perfect right, declined to speak with the author for the book despite numerous requests.
I am reading this for 2011 Non-fiction challenge hosted by The Broke and the Bookish under pop culture category.