The audacity of Facebook

Thursday, 2 February, 2012

Got the t-shirt To not write about the Facebook IPO filing would be to exhibit a disregard for news bordering on iconoclasm of the worst kind and that’s not what Rainy Day readers expect, so here goes. The numbers porn is fascinating: user base of 845 million, almost $4 billion in revenue, $1 billion in net income year… but it’s Mark Zuckerberg’s audacious vision as revealed in his letter to potential investors that deserves greater scrutiny. Facebook, he says, is more than just a channel for helping people to connect with each other:

“By helping people form these connections, we hope to rewire the way people spread and consume information. We think the world’s information infrastructure should resemble the social graph — a network built from the bottom up or peer-to-peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date.

We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring. We have already helped more than 800 million people map out more than 100 billion connections so far, and our goal is to help this rewiring accelerate.”

Rewiring society? That’s a pretty big claim to make about social networking. And there’s more. According to Zuckerberg, a more open and connected world will “help create a stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services”, and Facebook will be right in the middle, of course. But it gets better because all this social networking will “bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government”.

“By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase in number and volume. They cannot be ignored. Over time, we expect governments will become more responsive to issues and concerns raised directly by all their people rather than through intermediaries controlled by a select few.”

The person who wrote this is the CEO of a company with a projected market value of $100 billion that affects nearly a billion people. And he now wants to play a central role in how societies develop and are governed. This is an audacious move. Mark Zuckerberg is 28.

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