Sir Mark: How the Founder of Facebook Can Be Knighted, Win a Nobel Peace Prize, and Be Cheered by His Grateful Subjects
The founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners Lee, has been knighted, has been plausibly suggested for a Nobel Peace Prize, and is revered by his peers. The founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, inspires a worldwide nervousness: “What will the kid do next?” Yet, Facebook does something as important as the World Wide Web: While the Web knows how pages are connected, FB knows how people are connected. So, how can MZ get some of the love the world shows to TBL?
There is a way.
First, let’s make sure MZ is comfortable. Let him take, say, $100 million out of FB as winnings. His co-founders and managers deserve to do very, very well too. In fact, all 1,000 or so employees should make out like freaking bandits. They took a risk, they built a business, they have succeeded beyond anyone’s dreams. They should make more money than they’ll ever need. If $100 million isn’t enough, make it $250 million. Whatever.
No, I’m not going to suggest that FB go away or become a non-profit. But it would have to make a big change. It would have to separate itself as a company from the social data it’s gathered so far.
To do that, FB could create the FB Foundation, or the Social Data Provisioners Consortium, or the World Wide Graph, or whatever. It would be in charge of the social information FB has gathered â€” who knows whom, who likes what, who isn’t speaking to whom ever again. From now on, that’s where the data FB users generate would go. MZ, in his role as the chair of the Facebook Foundation (FBF) would put together a stellar board, composed of the smartest and most trusted people from around the world to guide its decisions about privacy and other policies.
The FBF would be structurally and legally separated from Facebook. Facebook would continue as the world’s leading supplier of client software and services for people who want to do online social networking. It would continue to sell people to advertisers and make as much money as it can. But it would draw from and contribute to the FBF’s data servers just as would any other group that wanted to create a social networking client, or make other (permitted) use of the FBF data. All those using FBF’s data for commercial purposes would be required to chip in a little cash to keep its server farms well fertilized. (If these servers could be distributed and federated, the cost might be born by the hosts.)
Why would MZ do this? Because it’s the right thing to do. Or, some version of it is. And maybe if FB doesn’t, there will eventually be enough anxiety worldwide to create and populate an open, federated social networking data system that starts from scratch. But it’d be better for us all if it started from the staggering investment in time and information FB’s users have already made in it.
Besides, is there any contributor to the Web more admirable and more admired than Tim Berners Lee? MZ, that could be you! Do what TBL would have done! The MZ legacy FTW!
[And then I woke up…]