Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg is as wildly popular as the co-founder and CEO of Facebook as he is infamous for his fashion. At the age of 37, his net worth is around $136 billion, as of August 2021. But how much do we really know about the millennial Wizard of Wealth?

Early Days:

Mark started programming while in middle school. He developed ‘ZuckNet’, a primitive version of AOL’s Instant Messenger that allowed his father to communicate from his home office to other parts of the house. He enrolled in a prep school Phillips Exeter Academy in the year 2000 where he won prizes in mathematics, astronomy, physics and classical studies. Zuckerberg captained his school fencing team and graduated in 2002. While in school, he built a music player that recognized people’s taste in music which received a rating of 3 out of 5 from PC Magazine.

Mark began classes at Harvard in the fall of 2002. By his sophomore year at the university, he had developed a reputation as a programmer. He created CourseMatch, which helped students choose their classes based on the course selections of other users, and later Facemash, which compared the pictures of two students on campus and allowed users to vote on which one was more attractive. The program became wildly popular and it was shut down by the school administration after it was deemed inappropriate.

This buzz connected him to fellow Harvard students Divya Narendra and the Winklevoss twins. They set out to create an exclusive social network for Harvard students. Zuckerberg agreed to help with the project but soon dropped out to build his own social networking site. With his friends Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, and Eduardo Saverin, Mark created The Facebook, a site that allowed users to create their own profiles, upload photos, and communicate with other users. Peter Thiel, an early angel investor in the company notes Facebook was universal in its design. Mark expanded the website initially to other colleges in the Ivy League and international universities. After receiving funding from venture capital firms, Facebook registered 1 million users by the end of 2004.

By July 2006, Facebook was operating with $20 million in revenue and 8-9 million users. But when Yahoo! offered to buy Facebook for $1 billion, in the board meeting Mark announced: “Okay guys, this is just a formality, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. We’re obviously not going to sell here.” Peter Thiel mentioned in his book “Mark saw where he could take the company, and Yahoo! didn’t.”

In 2007, he became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at the age of 23.

Legal Troubles:

After the launch of Facebook, Mark ran into legal troubles with lawsuits over intellectual property theft with Divya Narendra and the Winklevosses. An initial settlement of $65 million was reached between the two parties. Eduardo Saverin received an undisclosed settlement in another lawsuit.

The Social Network:

The Oscar-nominated 2010 film The Social Network is a movie on Zuckerberg and Facebook’s founding years. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay was based on the 2009 book 'The Accidental Billionaires' by writer Ben Mezrich, which the book's publicist once described as "big juicy fun" rather than "reportage". The book was criticized for its disputed accuracy and inventive scenes.

"The thing I really care about is the mission, making the world open," Mark said in an interview with WIRED magazine in 2010. TIME magazine named Mark Zuckerberg Person of the Year in 2010. Facebook had its initial public offering in 2012, which raised $16 billion, making it the biggest Internet IPO in history at the time. In 2013, Facebook made the Fortune 500 list for the first time, making Zuckerberg, at the age of 28, the youngest CEO on the list.

All The Data In The World:

A data breach is when confidential or protected data is exposed. Since the creation of online social networks, personal data has been more readily available than ever before. Facebook’s role in data privacy and protection dictate privacy for more than 2.5 billion people on the planet [Facebook: active users worldwide]. Combined with its acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, it handles nearly 3 billion users’ data worldwide. Certainly, there are complications and breaches but what Facebook has been most liable for is its participation in the manipulation of this data. Be it Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the Brexit referendum, the U.S. Presidential elections in 2016 or geopolitical events in the Middle East, it happened through Facebook’s platform. Target advertising, digital political campaigns, Facebook’s enormous data collection system, as explained in this video by The New York Times How Facebook Tracks Your Data | NYT, as well as its role in the spread of fake news and violent content such as videos on terrorism and war crimes, are only some of the issues that need to be addressed.

Mark Zuckerberg testified before the United States Congress and the EU on some of these issues. Facebook does, however, possess a very strong international lobbying network. As reported here by The Guardian, politicians lobbied by Facebook also include the ex-president of India Pranab Mukherjee.

Mark has famously signed the ‘Giving Pledge’ promising to donate at least 50% of his wealth towards charity.

Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative:

Mark has been an active member of philanthropy and donated $100 million to public schools in New Jersey, 18 million Facebook shares to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation as well as $25 million towards the Ebola crisis in Africa in 2014. Keeping in line with his philosophy, in December 2015, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan pledged to transfer 99% of their Facebook shares to the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative over the course of their lifetimes. Founded on the principles of philanthrocapitalism, CZI aims to "advance human potential and promote equality in areas such as health, education, scientific research and energy". It also announced a $3 billion investment in scientific research over the next decade.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Zuckerberg donated $25 million to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He also announced $25 million in grants to support local journalism and $75 million in ad purchases in local newspapers.

Zuckerberg is an internet entrepreneur who started out to build a high-profile information-sharing online social network for his college. What a journey it has been and will continue to be, as the young billionaire navigates through the popular and often disputed world of social media.

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