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Friday, June 2, 2017

Zuckerberg vs. Zuckerberg

Would the Mark Zuckerberg of 2017—who recently gave the commencement address at Harvard—have started Facebook? Likewise, would the Mark Zuckerberg of 2004—who was instrumental in building the world’s largest, most popular social networking website in the world—have given the 2017 commencement address at Harvard University?

As has been well documented over the last several days—most notably by Rush Limbaugh—Zuckerberg’s 2017 commencement address was laden with socialistic language and ideas that run quite contrary to what is necessary to build a company with thousands of employees and whose annual revenue is measured in billions of dollars. (Ask Venezuelans.)

For example, 2017 Mark Zuckerberg told Harvard graduates that it’s time we get about “redefining equality to give everyone the freedom they need to pursue purpose.” Yet the 2003-2004 Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t too keen on the notion of “equality” when he intentionally delayed a social networking project—Harvard Connection—he had agreed to work on for fellow classmates while a student at Harvard—the project that at least gave him some of his inspiration for Facebook—in order to complete first his own personal project that would directly compete with his classmates’ project.

As Zuckerberg would declare to classmate Eduardo Saverin in an IM (instant message):
Check this site out: www.harvardconnection.com and then go to harvardconnection.com/datehome.php. Someone is already trying to make a dating site. But they made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them. So I'm like delaying it so it won't be ready until after the facebook thing comes out.
In another IM exchange with his high school friend Adam D’Angelo, Zuckerberg would reveal that he was contemplating whether he was going to “f*ck the dating site [a reference to Harvard Connect] people over and quit on them right before I told them I’d have it done.” In the same IM exchange, weighing whether to complete Harvard Connect, Zuckerberg declared,
I also hate the fact that I'm doing it for other people haha. Like I hate working under other people. I feel like the right thing to do is finish the facebook and wait until the last day before I’m supposed to have their thing ready and then be like “look yours isn’t as good as this so if you want to join mine you can…otherwise I can help you with yours later.”
Weeks later, just prior to meeting with the Harvard Connect people, in another IM with a friend, Zuckerberg reveals how he has decided to resolve his conflict with the competing projects:
Friend: So have you decided what you're going to do about the websites?
Zuck: Yeah, I'm going to f*ck them
How very corporately ruthless of him. In other words, the very project that made Mr. Zuckerberg tremendously wealthy and famous, the project that allowed him—a Harvard dropout—the opportunity to give Harvard’s 2017 commencement address was not born out of some leftist notion of “equality.” Of course, Zuckerberg’s personal project would become Facebook and would quickly spell the end of Harvard Connection (later ConnectU) and all similar social networking websites. Not very “equal,” huh?

The story of Facebook’s founding and the relationship between Zuckerberg, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra is well documented and simply does not jive with socialist drivel Zuckerberg spewed in his recent Harvard address. In case you were unaware, or have forgotten, Zuckerberg’s conflict with his competing Harvard classmates went on for years, well past 2004 and the launch of Facebook and the now defunct Harvard Connect.

To this day, Zuckerberg—rightfully so, I think—rejects the notion that he “stole” the idea and any “source code” for Facebook from the Harvard Connect project, and that Winklevoss twins and Narendra are (or were) somehow “equal” partners in Facebook. (Though they were not recognized as “equal” partners in Facebook, because of their lawsuit against Zuckerberg and Facebook, and a settlement worth tens of millions of dollars, the Winklevoss twins and Narendra also made out quite well, themselves.)

Yet, it wasn’t only against the Winklevoss twins and Mr. Narendra that Mr. Zuckerberg acted rather “capitalistically.” In early 2004, prior to the February 4 launch of what was then “TheFacebook.com,” Zuckerberg acknowledged that, because he thought it would (GASP!) “make money,” another fellow Harvard classmate—Eduardo Saverin—provided $15,000 for the original servers necessary for TheFacebook.com. Saverin’s initial investment netted him a 30% stake in the project.

According to Business Insider, “By April, the site was doing so well that Mark, Eduardo, and a third Harvard sophomore named Dustin Muskovitz formed The Facebook as a limited-liability company (LLC) under Florida law.” In June of 2004, Zuckerberg and Muskovitz dropped out of Harvard and moved to Palo Alto, California to work on TheFacebook.com full time. Saverin remained at Harvard and was to work on three things: “to set up the company, get funding, and make a business model.”

The relationship between TheFacebook.com and Saverin quickly cooled. It was the issue of funding that defined the divide between Zuckerberg and Saverin. Soon after arriving in Palo Alto, Zuckerberg and Muskovitz ran into Sean Parker. Parker was best known for cofounding Napster, the extremely popular internet file-sharing (especially music) service. Parker was soon installed as TheFacebook’s president. His chief responsibility was to do what Saverin apparently wasn’t: find investors.

Parker secured Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal, as TheFacebook’s first big investor. Thiel put up $500,000 and Saverin was deemed “expendable.” To rid themselves of Saverin, Parker proposed Zuckerberg employ some “dirty tricks” used by Thiel and other well-known big-time tech investors. Zuckerberg agreed.

The plan, again, according to Business Insider:
Reduce Eduardo's stake in TheFacebook.com by creating a new company, a Delaware corporation, to acquire the old company (the Florida LLC formed in April), and then distribute new shares in the new company to everybody but Eduardo.
Very much in line with the idea of “wealth inequality”—and quite contrary to Zuckerberg’s Harvard address—the plan was carried out and Saverin’s stake in the company went from 30% to less than 10%. As Business Insider put it, “Mark’s plan had succeeded. Eduardo was, for all intents and purposes, gone.”

Whatever or whoever Mr. Zuckerberg is today, his Harvard speech was anything but surprising. If it wasn’t already so, Zuckerberg has now made clear that—after having employed and personally benefitted from the forces of capitalism—what worked for him is not for everyone else. He is firmly entrenched in the long and growing list of modern liberal-activist CEOs who feel, as Kevin Williamson recently put it, “obliged to act as public intellectuals as well as business managers.” The main job of these “public intellectuals” is to promote the liberal agenda—especially when it comes to the moral issues.

As Williamson also notes—and as Zuckerberg makes clear—many of our modern capitalists are “not much interested in defending the culture of capitalism,” but instead favor a “collectivist view of the world.” Of course, this view also embraces the notion that political power should rest in the hands of the “progressive” few. After all, “The decisions they have made for themselves have turned out well, so why not empower them, or men like them, to make decisions for other people, too?”

(See this column at American Thinker.)

Copyright 2017, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor is the author of The Miracle and Magnificence of America

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