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The Face of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg opens up

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The Face of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg opens up.

Adapt. Jose Antonio Vargas September 20, 2010

Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his college dorm room six years ago. Five hundred million people have joined since. The site is a directory of the world’s people, and a place for private citizens to create public identities. You sign up and start posting information about yourself: photographs, employment history, preferences. Some of the information can be seen only by your friends; some is available to friends of friends; some is available to anyone. Facebook’s privacy policies are confusing to many people, and the company has changed them frequently, almost always allowing more information to be exposed in more ways. In the bio section of his page, Zuckerberg writes simply, “I’m trying to make the world a more open place.”

According to his Facebook profile, Zuckerberg has three sisters (Randi, Donna, and Arielle), all of whom he’s friends with. He’s friends with his parents, Karen and Edward Zuckerberg. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy and attended Harvard University. He’s a fan of the comedian Andy Samberg and counts among his favourite musicians Green Day, Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, and Shakira. He is twenty-six years old.

Zuckerberg’s Facebook friends have access to his e-mail address and his cell-phone number. They can browse his photograph albums. They know that, in early July, upon returning from the annual Allen & Company retreat for Hollywood moguls, Wall Street tycoons, and tech titans, he became Facebook friends with Barry Diller.

Since late August, it’s also been pretty easy to track Zuckerberg through a new Facebook feature called Places, which allows users to mark their location at any time. At 2:45 A.M., E.S.T., on August 29th, he was at the Ace Hotel, in New York’s garment. But Facebook profiles are always something of a performance: you choose the details you want to share and you choose whom you want to share with.

Zuckerberg may seem like an over-sharer in the age of over-sharing. But that’s kind of the point. Zuckerberg’s business model depends on our shifting notions of privacy, revelation, and sheer self-display. The more that people are willing to put online, the more money his site can make from advertisers. Happily for him, and the prospects of his eventual fortune, the world, it seems, is responding.

The site is now the biggest social network in countries ranging from Indonesia to Colombia. Today, at least one out of every fourteen people in the world has a Facebook account. If and when Facebook decides to go public, Zuckerberg will become one of the richest men on the planet, and one of the youngest billionaires. In the October issue of Vanity Fair, Zuckerberg was declared “our new Caesar.”

Through his profile we can see that Zuckerberg is pale and of medium build, with short, curly brown hair and blue eyes. His standard attire is a grey T-shirt, blue jeans, and sneakers. Zuckerberg grew up in a hilltop house in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Attached to the basement is the dental office of his father, Edward Zuckerberg.

Mark was not a stereotypical geek-klutz. At Exeter, he became captain of the fencing team. He earned a diploma in classics. But computers were always central. Zuckerberg decided to enter Harvard, in the fall of 2002. He arrived in Cambridge with a reputation as a programming prodigy. Zuckerberg had a knack for creating simple, addictive software. In his first week as a sophomore, he built CourseMatch, a program that enabled users to figure out which classes to take based on the choices of other students.

“Friends” expect Chan and Zuckerberg to marry since in early September, Zuckerberg posted on his Facebook page, “Priscilla Chan is moving in this weekend. Now we have 2x everything, so if you need any household appliances, dishes, glasses, etc please come by and take them before we give them away.”

Colours don’t matter much to Zuckerberg; a few years ago, he took an online test and realized that he was red-green colour-blind. Blue is Facebook’s dominant colour, because, as he said, “blue is the richest colour for me—I can see all of blue.” Facebook’s headquarters is a two-story building at the end of a quiet, tree-lined street. Zuckerberg nicknamed it the Bunker. Facebook has grown so fast that this is the company’s fifth home in six years—the third in Palo Alto. There is virtually no indication outside of the Bunker’s tenant. Upon walking in, however, you are immediately greeted by what’s called the Facebook Wall, playing off the virtual chalkboards users have on their profiles. One day in early August, the Wall was covered with self-referential posts. An employee, addressing the constant criticism of the site’s privacy settings, had written, “How do I delete my post??? Why don’t you care about my privacy? Why is the default for this app everyone??” Inside is a giant sea of desks—no cubicles, no partitions, just open space with small conference rooms named after bands (Run-DMC, New Edition, ZZ Top) and bad ideas (Knife at a Gunfight, Subprime Mortgage).

Zuckerberg’s desk is near the middle of the office, just a few steps away from his glass-walled conference room and within arm’s length of his most senior employees. He is often one of the last people to leave the office. A photograph posted by a Facebook employee over Labour Day weekend showed Zuckerberg sitting at a long table in a conference room surrounded by other workers—all staring at their computers, coding away.

Zuckerberg’s critics argue that his interpretation and understanding of transparency and openness are simplistic, if not downright naïve. Zuckerberg thinks the world would be a better place -and more honest- if people were more open and transparent. But as said on the Aeneid, one of Zuckerberg’s favourite books, “fortune favours the bold” that seek to create “a nation/empire without bound.”
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