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Mark E. Zuckerberg

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Mark E. Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg is the co-founder and chief executive of Facebook, the world's largest social network with nearly 500 million users around the world.

The start-up, born in a Harvard dorm room in 2004, has become an essential personal and business networking tool in much of the wired world.

As Facebook has matured, so has Mr. Zuckerberg, who was born May 14, 1984. He has traded his disheveled, unassuming image for an ever-present tie while visiting media outfits like "The Oprah Winfrey Show." And he says Facebook's most important metrics are not its membership but the percentage of the wired world that uses the site and the amount of information -- photographs, news articles and status updates -- zipping across its servers.

A new movie about the tumultuous origins of Facebook, "The Social Network," opens in October. Facebook has strenuously, and Mr. Zuckerberg more quietly, asserted that the portrayal of the company's founding is fiction. And Mr. Zuckerberg disputed the characterization of him in the film, though in a New Yorker magazine profile, he acknowledged having indulged in a bit of sophomoric arrogance.

Shortly before the film's opening, the real-life Mr. Zuckerberg made headlines with reports that he is donating $100 million to improve the long-troubled public schools of Newark, N.J. It would be by far the largest publicly known gift by Mr. Zuckerberg, whose fortune Forbes magazine estimated in 2009 was $2 billion. Mr. Zuckerberg, who grew up in Westchester County, N.Y. and now lives in California, has no particular connection to Newark. He and Newark's mayor, Cory A. Booker had met at a conference in July 2010 and began a conversation about the mayor's plans for the city.


Facebook's rise has been marked by several controversies. Three other Harvard students maintain that they came up with the original idea and that Mr. Zuckerberg, whom they had hired to write code for the site, stole the idea to create Facebook. Facebook has denied the allegations. A long-running lawsuit is pending

Another Harvard classmate, Aaron Greenspan, claims that he created the underlying architecture for both companies, but has declined to enter the legal battle.

In 2005, MTV Networks considered buying Facebook for seventy-five million dollars. Yahoo! and Microsoft soon offered much more. Mr. Zuckerberg turned them all down. Terry Semel, the former C.E.O. of Yahoo!, who sought to buy Facebook for a billion dollars in 2006, said, “I’d never met anyone—forget his age, twenty-two then or twenty-six now—I’d never met anyone who would walk away from a billion dollars. But he said, ‘It’s not about the price. This is my baby, and I want to keep running it, I want to keep growing it.’ I couldn’t believe it.”


Mr. Zuckerberg has pushed Facebook users to share more information about themselves. But Facebook users have pushed back, increasingly lobbing vociferous complaints that some new features or settings are privacy violations. The back and forth between Facebook and its users over privacy is gaining importance as the company's growth continues unabated. Facebook's policies, more than those of any other company, are helping to define standards for privacy in the Internet age.

Bowing to pressure over privacy concerns, Mr. Zuckerberg in May 2010 unveiled a set of controls that he said would help people understand what they were sharing online, and with whom.

Facebook's biggest mistake, Mr. Zuckerman said, was failing to notice that as Facebook added new features and its privacy controls grew increasingly complicated, those controls became efectively unusable for many people.

He said the crisis was challenging, but not as stressful as fending off billion-dollar acquisition offers from the likes of Yahoo and Viacom when he was 22.

In February 2009, when Facebook updated its terms, it deleted a provision that said users could remove their content at any time, at which time the license would expire. Further, it added new language that said Facebook would retain users' content and licenses after an account was terminated. After a wave of protests from its users, Facebook said that it would withdraw changes to its terms of service.

In one of the latest episodes in a string of frustrations about Facebook, users discovered in May 2010 that a glitch gave them access to supposedly private information in the accounts of their Facebook friends, like chat conversations. Although Facebook moved quickly to close the security hole, the breach heightened a feeling among many users that it was becoming hard to trust the service to protect their personal information.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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