Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, is the 2010 Time Person of the Year. This is not news, it was announced weeks ago, but I’ve only just got around to reading the article. It’s worth a read but it is really long so if you prefer not to, just keep reading because I’m going to talk a bit about some of the interesting bits.
The article is both a profile of Zuckerberg and a discussion of the meteoric rise of his creation. To start with Zuckerberg, I thought it was interesting that the author continually asserted that the way he is usually portrayed – awkward, with no social skills (or a social life, come to that) – just isn’t accurate. He sees things differently to most of us, speaks quickly and thinks even faster, but is perfectly capable of interacting in a social setting, even if his conversational style is disconcerting. The author describes it thus:
“He approaches conversation as a way of exchanging data as rapidly and efficiently as possible, rather than as a recreational activity undertaken for its own sake. He is formidably quick and talks rapidly and precisely, and if he has no data to transmit, he abruptly falls silent.”
He’s an intriguing character, but I’m sure most of us are probably more interested in Facebook itself.
Facebook is huge. I’m sure you knew that, but this article really brings it home. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world by population, after only the behemoths of India and China.
700,000 people join Facebook every day. That’s an absolutely astonishing growth rate. I suppose there is a bit of a tipping point with these things – once your friends have joined, the pressure to join yourself is very strong. There would be a sense of missing out. Most of you reading this probably remember when Facebook became available at British universities. When it came to mine, it was already in place at several other British universities so we all knew what it was and word spread quickly. Within hours, most of us had signed up.
After universities, the site expanded to schools and colleges, then workplaces, and then to everyone over the age of 13. It’s still a big surprise to find someone of my generation who isn’t a member.
I know the arguments against social networks – “Why can’t you just have a conversation?”, and so on, but to me Facebook is an invaluable tool. It’s great for organising events and most importantly for sharing, which is at the heart of the ethos of the company. I can keep up, at least to the extent that I care to, with what people I never see are doing. These are people from all stages of my life – school, college, university, work. There’s no other way to do that.
Facebook has meant that humanity is sharing more than ever before with more people than has ever been possible before. Consider this: every minute, 231, 605 messages are sent. 135, 849 photos are uploaded. There are 82, 557 status updates. That has its disadvantages, of course – ID theft and paedophilia spring to mind. In my view, though, for those who are sensible about it, the interface Zuckerberg and his team have created to allow us to share our lives with those we care about is a gift.