The Mind of Mark Zuckerberg, Dissected, Again

Interest in who the real Mark Zuckerberg is has reached an all-time high, given the approaching release of the semi-fictional “The Social Network” in October, a movie about the origins of Facebook made without his consent. The New Yorker has published online a long profile of the Facebook CEO, aiming to explain the site he created by tying it to his personal life.

For close followers of Facebook, the profile is good if you want to read precise descriptions of how Zuckerberg tenderly rubbed his girlfriend’s right shoulder while in the company of reporter Jose Antonio Vargas. There’s also a great anecdote about Zuckerberg and Aaron Sorkin (who wrote the movie) now having trouble with each other’s existence in the same world: Zuckerberg once professed his love for “The West Wing” while Sorkin hates the Internet. As for the broader context of Facebook, Vargas gets Zuckerberg to open up about the maturation that was necessary for him to evolve from a cocky college student into a still cocky CEO of a globally important company. Zuckerberg admits that previously published IMs that have him crudely dismissing the competition and suggesting he will abuse access to people’s personal information are accurate. Vargas writes:

According to two knowledgeable sources, there are more unpublished IMs that are just as embarrassing and damaging to Zuckerberg. But, in an interview, [Accel Partners’ Jim] Breyer told me, “Based on everything I saw in 2006 [during a session when lawyers and company insiders reviewed Zuckerberg’s messages], and after having a great deal of time with Mark, my confidence in him as C.E.O. of Facebook was in no way shaken.” Breyer, who sits on Facebook’s board, added, “He is a brilliant individual who, like all of us, has made mistakes.” When I asked Zuckerberg about the IMs that have already been published online, and that I have also obtained and confirmed, he said that he “absolutely” regretted them. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right?” he said. “I think I’ve grown and learned a lot.”

When exactly Zuckerberg grew up is something I wrote about last week, after finding a recording of a public conversation between him and Breyer from October 2005. By that time, the transformation was nearly complete. Zuckerberg, who had just released the site’s transformative photo-sharing feature, talked about enabling the freer flow of information, user privacy trade-offs, and his product design and hiring philosophy. I summarized the conversation here. This was a time when Facebook got barely any press so there are a lot of previously unreported gems in the recording.

This morning, I also reread the the last time the New Yorker profiled Zuckerberg and Facebook, back in May 2006. Like Vargas, writer John Cassidy documented Zuckerberg’s interests as specified in his Facebook profile. Then, they were: “meditation…information flow, exponential growth, minimalism, driving, making things, social dynamics, and domination.” Now, the new article notes Zuckerberg’s stated affinity for “minimalism, revolutions, and eliminating desire.”

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