Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Facebook Effect

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company that is Connecting the World. By David Kirkpatrick

In the early days Mr Zuckerberg comes across as a mixture of programming prodigy and business neophyte (his initial business cards bear the memorable phrase “I’m CEO…bitch!”). But his leadership instincts are commendably sharp. By surrounding himself with experienced advisers, he manages to steer Facebook clear of hurdles that threaten to derail its growth and soon finds himself the object of fawning attention from companies and venture capitalists drooling over the firm’s fast-growing franchise. The pressure on the fledgling entrepreneur is intense. In one scene Mr Zuckerberg retreats to the bathroom of a swank Silicon Valley restaurant and bursts into tears during a stressful negotiation over funding.

But behind the tears is toughness. Facebook’s boss turns down several Croesus-like offers to buy the company in spite of intense lobbying by fellow shareholders who think he should sell. And he pursues his vision of making the world a more open and connected place with single-minded determination. Some of the most interesting passages in “The Facebook Effect” describe how Mr Zuckerberg’s missionary zeal makes him ambivalent towards initiatives that would mint money for Facebook but fail to advance its agenda of “radical transparency”.

It is this zeal—and the company’s habit of suddenly revealing more of a user’s information in unexpected ways—that has repeatedly got it into hot water. Here Mr Kirkpatrick puts his finger on the contradiction between Mr Zuckerberg’s professed belief in the importance of protecting people’s privacy and his deep-seated conviction that people are rapidly losing interest in keeping their personal data hidden.
-Review of the book from The Economist

Related: Author's namesake blogger, David Kirkpatrick

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