Facebook founder in need of business leadership
December 10, 2007 —
In an ironic twist of fate, Mark Zuckerberg would like some privacy. The 23-year-old founder of the social networking Web site Facebook recently lost a case in federal court after suing the magazine 02138 for some documents that didn't exactly portray him as a halo-clad Internet pioneer. It seems that Zuckerberg may have looted both the idea and the source code for Facebook while working with three other Harvard students before he dropped out of the college. That lawsuit, filed in 2004, claimed that while he was working with Harvard students on a social networking Web site called ConnectU, he literally stole the creative vision, source codes, and business plan and went off into the sunset to create Facebook. That move, illegal or not, made Zuckerberg a billionaire.
After a judge ordered all the information in the 2004 lawsuit to be sealed, a clerk error gave Luke O'Brien, a reporter for 02138, more information that he bargained for, and the controversial article was born. What is ironic is that Zuckerberg has long been on the blacklists of many privacy advocates, organizations, and even Facebook users. It all started in 2006 when Facebook introduced its Newsfeed program, a program that tracks users' every move and posts them for all to see. Immediately, uproar ensued, and the web site found itself tip-toeing around a public relations disaster.
I found it hypocritical that Facebook user groups popped up after the implementation of Newsfeed declaring such an intrusion an inexcusable breach of online ethics. How dare a Web site post the information that users themselves provide! For those that complained about Newsfeed, why post the information in the first place if you do not want it to be distributed? Trust me, there's way more to life than Tommy breaking up with Suzie, and knowing when Tiffany has uploaded her latest photo album.
It hasn't been the best of weeks for Zuckerberg. The Facebook privacy issue will not go away, and it's his fault. A new advertising platform on the site, Beacon, tracks users' purchases and then promptly displays those purchases for others to view. Needless to say, Facebook found itself in the same bind as last year. On Wednesday, Zuckerberg posted a blog admitting to not responding soon enough to user demands that they be allowed to disable Beacon, if desired.
The online mea-culpa didn't help to fix Zuckerberg's now-tattered reputation, however. The series of mistakes that have plagued Facebook over the years are the result of a failed chief executive. With his track record, it's clear he has no business or leadership skills. In fact, the only thing keeping him in his position is the fact that he created, or stole, the Web site. There have been reports lately advising Zuckerberg to be more like Microsoft's Bill Gates, to be more charitable to enhance his reputation. It's a step; however, it's only superficial.
Zuckerberg needs to look at another internet company to end his woes: Google. Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page had a unique and successful formula for operating the search engine giant. When Google became successful, Brin and Page brought in a seasoned businessman, Eric Schmidt, to serve as chief executive officer. With Schmidt's business planning, both Brin and Page took important roles in the company, allowing Google to grow from their vision. Facebook is a great success, but unless Zuckerberg either hands the ropes over to a worthy successor, or educates himself quickly in minimizing his business mistakes, his days are numbered.