Mark Zuckerberg is not your average 27-year-old young man – or even your average entrepreneur. This CEO’s story is more than just that of the Harvard dropout who started Facebook in 2004, having never previously had a full-time job. Zuckerberg then moved to Silicon Valley and managed to create the most influential and high profile social media business and one of the world’s top companies in just 8 years.
Since the age of 18, when he famously created TheFacebook.com in his Harvard dorm room with roommates Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, Zuckerberg has been disrupting the web and the way we relate with each other as no one had done before. Mark Zuckerberg is loved and hated because of the way he has expanded the web towards the concept of the social graph whilst opening up the thorny issue of personal data privacy and transparency. But, regardless of where you stand on Zuckerberg the man, his impact and influence are undeniable. The dorm room project has become the web’s greatest directory, with almost 50% of the world’s web users on it (currently totalling 2 billion people). To date more than 91 billion photos have been uploaded to Facebook and half a billion people now use the platform on mobile phones.
But who exactly is this young man that has already been portrayed in a major Hollywood film directed by David Fincher, one of cinema’s most talented directors, with a cast including Justin Timberlake (another interestingly disruptive entertainment character and a member of the group that recently acquired MySpace)? Who is the real Mark Zuckerberg? Is he a megalomaniac hacker, an evangelist or a disruptive visionary?
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
– US President Calvin Coolidge
A bold and strong visionary, Mark Zuckerberg is an ambitious, obsessive character and personality who, through hard work and vision, has been pushing the boundaries of the web, society, economy and politics both directly and indirectly. The 845 million members of Facebook, and the active 483 million users that log in to it multiple times during a typical day, prove that he is not alone in his vision, and that his social networking platform has indeed become a part of the daily lives of a substantial portion of the world.
Zuckerberg is simultaneously a hardcore dreamer and a hard worker. He has a 360 degree responsibility in Facebook, having a hands-on approach in setting the overall direction, management and product strategy for the platform, and according to some sources he still occasionally codes the website. He also leads the design of Facebook’s service and the development of its core technology and infrastructure.
In his early years as a hacker (a description he prefers over coder) Zuckerberg developed a technological music recommendation engine system called Synapse and a peer-to-peer client called Wirehog. However, he abandoned both to pursue new projects and continue his studies. Even in his younger years he showed exceptional skills in web development – nevertheless he did not choose the easy path. When he was reportedly offered a million dollars to continue developing Synapse for Microsoft, Zuckerberg instead decided to attend Harvard University and study computer science.
During his rapid passage through Harvard, Zuckerberg created Facemash, a website that compared students’ dorm photos side-by-side in a fashion similar to HOT or NOT. This was a preliminary step in his well-documented issues with pushing the boundaries of the law, the authorities and personal privacy. Harvard’s administration board was of course far from amused by Facemash, and Zuckerberg faced subsequent disciplinary action. Less than three months later he launched Facebook.
Since then his public profile has skyrocketed and his career and work on Facebook have been changing the way we interact with the web and with the entire social digital footprint. In 2007 Zuckerberg won the Crunchie Award for ‘Best Overall Startup or Product’ and was voted Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’ for 2010. It is interesting to note that in September 2010, Zuckerberg donated $100 million to the Newark Public School System to help renovate and revamp it (in 1995 the state took control of the system having declared it a failure). Zuckerberg himself has no direct connection to Newark, and some commentators saw the donation as an attempt to forestall any negative publicity arising from the “The Social Network”, which opened in cinemas on 1st October 2010 – but it’s unlikely that the citizens of Newark were overly concerned about the motivations behind the donation.