i Editor's Letter: A genuinely extraordinary achievement


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The Independent Online


Mark Zuckerberg is 28 years old, just. Some time today, he may become worth close to $25bn or so, making him the world's 15th richest person. Only eight years ago, during a long night in his room at Harvard, this son of a dentist wrote the code for an idea initially known as thefacebook.com, a network for Harvard students and alumni. Zuckerberg was already known on campus for Facemash, a "hot or not?"-type site featuring students.

The dispute about whether or not he stole the idea for Facebook from the Winklevoss twins and Divya Narendra is now 21st-century folklore. It also formed the basis of the movie The Social Network in which Zuckerberg was played by Jesse Eisenberg. But eight years of lawsuits, films, and urban myths later, Facebook undertakes its IPO today, which may value his creation at $100bn.

You may have chosen not to be on Facebook. In which case if you live in the UK, you are in the minority. Some 30 million of us now like, link, message and poke each other (does anyone still poke?). The site has over 901 million users globally, some 800 million of whom are "active". By way of contrast, there are only ten million Twitter followers in the UK – but tweeting is newer.

I don't have space here for any analysis of the pros and cons of his creation. Let's do that tomorrow? Instead I would urge you to read up on a be-hoodied, coding genius who is every bit as spiky, original, bloody-minded and – probably – obnoxious as you would expect.

He is probably cashing in at the perfect time. I am not at all clear how he can truly monetise his site without alienating his primary, if not "only", assets: us! For now, I take my hat off to his genuinely extraordinary achievement in building something of real cultural influence that has brought so much pleasure to so many people. Before you demur, bitch or cavil, just put the green-eyed monster back in its box first.