Earlier this year, unknown to all but a couple friends and co-workers, Zuckerberg gave himself a new challenge with unknown ramifications for what is soon to be Silicon Valley’s newest public company. Mark Zuckerberg made a pledge to return to his roots and spend time programming each day.
Zuckerberg’s true skill has always been his ability to hack. That is a foundational verb at Facebook, to hack. In its offering details, Facebook describes repeatedly its corporate culture as “the hacker way”; on its new campus, fifty-seven acres of office park adjacent to San Francisco Bay in Menlo Park, Calif., there is a building with a large sign that reads “The Hacker Company.” Those slogans do not mean Facebook is going to team up with Anonymous or breaking into NORAD. They are talking about reaching a goal in an unconventional way.
Zuckerberg and his crew have made a series of high-risk moves—5 hacks that have forever changed Silicon Valley—that were far more risky than wearing a hoodie to an IPO roadshow. Instead of allowing a more seasoned chief executive officer to replace him early on, Zuckerberg consolidated his authority with bylaws that gave him an incontestable voting majority on the company’s board. He protected that power by refusing repeated acquisition offers. Instead of rushing to go public, Facebook held back its offering well past the usual ripening date of other successful startups. Even conventional hacking—manipulation of computer code—is unusually executed at Facebook.
Every Zuckerberg hack is in the service of an overreaching vision: that technology and online authenticity may be able to bring people together. And the more simple it is for people to find one another, the more time they will spend online, sharing photos of their kids, their moods, what they read, who they date, and more with all the people they have met in their life (or, if they neglect their privacy settings, with the whole world). Neither Zuckerberg nor other Facebook executives would give a comment for this story because of the quiet period that the Securities and Exchange Commission mandates before going public. But just as Jobs evangelized for simple, elegant devices, and Gates extolled the productivity-enhancing power of software, Zuckerberg has long argued his case to an often skeptical audience. “I think Mark Zuckerberg is ‘The One,’ ” says Roger McNamee, a longtime Valley venture capitalist whose firm, Elevation Partners, is an investor in Facebook. “Like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, he has set a tone that everyone else has lined up behind.”
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