Joho the Blog » Sir Mark: How the Founder of Facebook Can Be Knighted, Win a Nobel Peace Prize, and Be Cheered by His Grateful Subjects

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 — 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…]

6 Responses to “Sir Mark: How the Founder of Facebook Can Be Knighted, Win a Nobel Peace Prize, and Be Cheered by His Grateful Subjects”

  1. This would work if Zuckerberg’s motivations were money and/or respect. But I don’t think they are – I think power is a more central motivator, and doing this would be a direct surrender of power. I’d be thrilled to be wrong, though…

  2. But as an investor in FB, would you be happy? That’s like giving away the gold prize. It’s like Google giving away their search data.

    Nice scenario though :)

  3. It’s arguably a good business strategy. FB would reduce its share of the cost of maintaining all that data, and it would grow the market for social networking by enabling competitors. FB would have to compete on the superiority of its client, but it’s clearly got the most highly evolved SNS client around.

  4. Nice one. There are of course many potential complications, but it certainly seems like an idea worth throwing out there, or at least a dream worth dreaming.

    MZ owns well less than 50% of FB, but he might have the sort of “super shares” that the Google founders do that give 10x the voting rights. If so, and such a separation isn’t covered by the shareholder agreements (unlikely, given the magnitude of change, but possible, given the unlikeliness) then it would be MZ’s call to make, but he would, of course, have to take the opinions, and futures, of his shareholders, staff, and 500m users into account when considering such a momentous decision.

    From what little I know of MZ as a vaguely interested cybercitizen, he was a bit self-centered when he was 19 – like most 19 year olds – but one would imagine he has matured quite quickly in his current role. So who knows? Anything is possible.

    OTOH I’m not sure a knighthood is viable – pretty sure they’re only available to UK and commonwealth citizens (like TimBL). However, the Presidential Medal of Freedom seems like a possibility, and those are given out even less often.

  5. I support this vision fully — and is seems to me that this proposal is even more practical and realisitic than I ever assumed.

    If we add to it that Social Data could also be distributed as web pages are, than MZ could probably grow even higher in reputation !

    This would also be a leapfrog in the path toward Semantic Web, ad the Data Servers would promote all sorts of things SW community has for people and links between them.

    Peter — I think the times are near when Google WILL open their search data (but not the algorithms they use). They already feel the danger and there are a lot of activities, even inside Google for such an openning.

    As David writes — by separating the data and the smart client, FB can make money on client while protecting the data about us….

    I wonder if anybody suggested this bright idea to MZ?

    I’m going to read “Facebook effect” soon — maybe I will have some idea WHY MZ does what he does….

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