Just over a week from the opening of The Social Network, it seems Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are doing anything and everything to earn some positive press. Can you blame them? The movie is getting rave reviews, and those I’ve talked to who’ve seen advanced screenings say it colors Zuckerberg a world-class douche bag, whether right or wrong.
So, what’s Team Zuckerberg been up to?
- Donating $100 million to Newark (NJ) public schools. According to the Wall Street Journal, Zuckerberg will announce “a donation of up to $100 million to the Newark schools this week, in a bold bid to improve one of the country’s worst performing public school systems.” And with grand Zuckerberg flair, the announcement will be made on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
- Working on a Facebook phone. Maybe. After previously dismissing a report from TechCrunch regarding a possible Facebook phone, Bloomberg reported Facebook is working with INQ Mobile Ltd. on a pair of smartphones which could be carried by AT&T in the U.S. in the second half of 2011.
- Climbing the list of Forbes’ 400 richest Americans. How do you get past being depicted by B-list actor Jesse Eisenberg? Try increasing your value $4.9 billion in just a year. Zuckerberg’s $6.9 billion puts him at No. 35 on the list of America’s 400 richest people. For perspective, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is worth just $6.1 billion. Chump change. Why does this matter? A) Should Facebook go public, investors can equate Zuckerberg’s financial success with still more growth potential and B) Zuckerberg’s now surpassing some of the greatest luminaries in our country in terms of value and influence.
Expect more educational philanthropy from Facebook, as Zuckerberg has long been a proponent for increasing salaries for public school teachers. His timing — with the donation and the announcement on Oprah — is perfect, considering Davis Guggenheim’s education documentary Waiting for “Superman” opens Oct. 1, the same day as The Social Network. (Guggenheim appeared on Oprah Monday to promote the doc alongside Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee, chancellor of the Washington D.C. public school system.)
About a year ago, I read Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, the book upon which The Social Network is based. While reading it, I was aware the movie was being developed, but I imagine you’ll get the same impression from the movie as I got from the book — a sense of incompletion. Simply, the Facebook story is still in its early chapters, and to pen a book and movie before we truly understand what Facebook means seems … I don’t know … rushed? Opportunistic? Impatient?
You don’t net $6.9 billion without pissing someone off along the way. And more importantly, I don’t think Facebook users care about Zuckerberg’s dealings. Facebook has woven itself into our lives in such a way that we’re no longer concerned with how it came to be, but more importantly, that it exists.
Who can name the inventor of the Internet? (Not Al Gore.) E-mail? Wireless Internet? Online bill pay? Facebook has become a tool, a utility, something we’ve come to need. Ever talk to a friend who’s decided to quit Facebook? They don’t miss the poking and the walls and the photo albums. They miss the communication. They miss the feeling of being connected. It’s the same feeling you’d have if you up and removed your mailbox, gave up on the postal service.
Anyone plan on seeing The Social Network? Do you believe a movie that negatively depicts Mark Zuckerberg will affect the way you interact with Facebook?