Zuckerberg Resilient the Week Before Social Network Opens

If Jesse Eisenberg was paid $5 million to play Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, he would need 1,379 sequels to match Zuckerberg's net worth.

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.

I digress.

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?

Changes Coming Before Quit Facebook Day?

For many of Facebook's users, CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg has one week to convince them to stay. Quit Facebook Day takes place on Monday, May 31 in response to growing privacy concerns.

A week from now, millions will take part in a mass exodus from Facebook over growing privacy concerns. The revolt comes following a run of bad decisions by CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, which have left many users feeling indisposed.

A survey by IT security firm Saphos claims up to 60 percent of Facebook users are considering quitting. “Quit Facebook Day” is scheduled for Monday, May 31, so if the company plans to roll out changes to its insanely complex privacy settings, this would seem like the right week.

I’m not among the 60 percent who are allegedly considering quitting. As someone who lives far from most of his friends and home, someone who’s freelance journalist, a blogger, a media glutton, I can’t imagine not being a part of the world’s most popular social network. However, I can say I’m not pleased with my experience of late.

I see a mass exodus as seriously problematic on two levels:

  1. Countless companies and industries have invested their resources into social media. If Facebook turns out to be a phase, thousands of businesses will be forced to retool almost overnight and reconsider their advertising and marketing strategies. Altogether, not a bad thing, but it would slow the willingness to invest in social media in the future. And I still believe all relevant technologies are going that direction.
  2. If not Facebook, then who? If 120 million — 60 percent of the 2 million-plus Facebook users — were to leave, where would they go? MySpace is decaying somewhere in the aughts, Twitter is too limited and no one understands Google Buzz, including Google. This creates a huge market gap which would need to be filled with quickness. But by whom? (Here’s my early favorite.)

To play devil’s advocate, I think it’s time Facebook consider subscription-based service. I’m talking nothing more than a dollar or two per month, but this would reduce the need for advertising revenue, thusly creating a more user-friendly experience. Most of the company’s problems have stemmed from the perfectly understandable need to create revenue streams. Facebook has relied on venture capitalists since its inception and Zuckerberg has declined several multibillion-dollar offers for his brainchild. Instead, they’ve relied on ad revenue while growing the user base.

If I was Zuckerberg, I would put Facebook in the time machine and turn the dial back a couple years. I would argue the Facebook experience peaked in early 2008, before it was overrun with clumsy applications, myriad privacy settings and a muddled front page. Most users want nothing more than status updates, messages, photos, walls, customizable profiles and maybe — maybe — Facebook chat. Users felt as though they had control of Facebook.

Ah, the good old days.

What are you thoughts? How would you describe the current Facebook experience compared to a few years ago? Would you consider quitting Facebook?