I wrote a book about Facebook because I think this company's astonishing success over such a short time is among the most important developments of our age. Yet too many people have dismissed it as either just another website or as a mere plaything for young people. Facebook is changing how people all over the world communicate. It is a medium for the empowerment of ordinary people, which gives every one of its 500 million members a powerful broadcast platform. It is having a big impact or "effect" on politics, government, business, marketing, media, and on our sense of identity and our notion of community. It was founded in a dorm room by a Harvard sophomore yet has grown to serve people in almost literally every community on the planet. The story of how 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg created and nurtured it is a great entrepreneurial saga.
It's wonderful to begin a dialogue with the Amherst community about the many important questions raised by Facebook's success and continued growth. I don't think the role of technology in defining and guiding human progress is sufficiently enough discussed at Amherst, and if my book can help prod along that process, I'd be gratified.
Some thoughts to consider:
- I'm a big believer that entrepreneurs like Zuckerberg are the true revolutionaries of our era--using their progamming skills to literally alter society more to their liking.
- Facebook has been much criticized for taking a cavalier approach to its users' privacy. But some believe that privacy is simply no longer possible in our electronicized, marketing-driven world. Can we still maintain our privacy, and does it matter?
- Another way to look at the privacy question is to observe that most of human history has been one of people living in villages and small towns where privacy pretty much didn't exist. But in recent years people worldwide have increasingly moved to cities. Just this year, for the first time, the majority of mankind is living in cities. It's interesting to note that just at that moment, a global service of unprecedented popularity has emerged which in some crucial ways recreates the intimate ambiance of the small town, by giving users an effortless window into the activities of their friends.