On her baby face of an eternal adolescent, the air is serious and the features are drawn. Auditioned by American senators last April to answer for the responsibility of Facebook in yet another resounding scandal over the use of personal data of its users, Mark Zuckerberg does not seem very relaxed. However, he ultimately did not give up much in the face of the fire of questions from elected officials. This is perhaps one of the paradoxes that best sums it up. Often described as shy, uncomfortable in public, the now in his thirties reigns over the most important social network in the world, which he has managed to perpetuate by constantly making it evolve. A success that earned him to be seen as a digital genius.
In any case, he developed his talents early on: born in 1984 to a dentist father and a psychiatrist mother, in New York State, Mark Zuckerberg, nicknamed “Zuck”, quickly rubbed shoulders with computers. Initiated to computers by his father, he links, for example, the computers of the family house with that of the father’s office to allow them to communicate via instant messaging. Later, he invents Synapse Media Player, a music player capable of adapting to the tastes of the user, thanks to artificial intelligence. So it was already with a serious computer background that he joined Harvard in 2002.
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From a community of students to a global network
Within the prestigious university, he quickly stood out by developing Facemash in his student room. This is a program that allows students to vote to choose, between two people on campus, which one they consider to be the “sexiest”. The service elicited 22,000 votes in a few hours but caused an uproar. The student photos used were hacked. Summoned by the board of directors, Mark Zuckerberg closes the site. In 2004, he launched, with Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum and Chris Hughes, Thefacebook, a sort of online directory allowing its members to connect with each other. Initially reserved for Harvard students, it was gradually opened to other universities, and to the general public in 2006.
Mark Zuckerberg then left the university to devote himself to the development of the site, renamed Facebook, and settled in Palo Alto, California. Gradually, it increases the functionality of the network, for example modulating the presentation of the news feed, integrating the “like” in 2005, then opening the possibility for third parties to develop integrated applications on the network or to chat live between users. Quickly, the network weaves its web, making more and more followers in the world. It passed the 500 million member mark in 2010 and one billion in 2012. Today, Facebook has 2.23 billion active users each month. Its strong point: constantly evolving to meet user needs.
- Mark Zuckerberg in 4 figures:
- 19 years old : that’s how old he was when he started Facebook. 2.23 billion users network assets, per month, in 2018. $ 40.65 billion of facebook turnover in 2017. $ 71 billion : it is the estimated amount of his personal fortune.
Looking for new features
The platform, which is constantly being changed, has little to do with what it was when it first started. It is constantly testing new features. Some are successes, like the “like” and the panoply of reactions available today. Others are being abandoned, like the Explorer Feed, an experiment of excluding advertisers and media from the news feed and bringing them together on a separate feed. It doesn’t matter, the main thing being, for the boss, to “act quickly and break things” in order to be able to learn from his failures and continue to progress quickly.
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To establish the domination of his platform, Mark Zuckerberg is not content to encourage innovation internally, he also relies on that of other start-ups. Thus, he bought the Instagram photo exchange application, for $ 1 billion, and spent $ 22 billion to afford WhatsApp, an instant messaging application. Investments that ensure it an audience among young people, who favor these two networks. If the ambitious CEO can afford such operations, it is because he has made Facebook a real cash machine.
- He relies on the hackers’ method. Soaked in geek culture, Mark Zuckerberg explained in 2012 using the “hacker way” to grow his platform. This method of hackers consists in constantly testing new things, without hesitation, even if it means making mistakes.
The young billionaire wants to change the world
The platform’s revenue comes mainly from advertising revenue. However, Facebook attracts advertisers by offering them the possibility of precisely targeting user profiles using their personal data. The more features Facebook offers, the more people have to share information about them and the more money the site can make. Last year, the platform achieved revenue of $ 40.65 billion, up 47%, and net profit of $ 15.93 billion. With a personal fortune estimated at 71 billion dollars, Mark Zuckerberg is therefore among the five richest men on the planet, according to the American magazine. Forbes. But money would not be his main motivation.
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What this fan of Greek mythology, who sets himself a new challenge every year – to learn Mandarin, to create a domestic artificial intelligence, to visit every state in the United States – wants is to change the world. “Facebook was not originally created to be a business. Facebook was built to accomplish a social mission, to make the world more open and more connected, ”he wrote in a letter to his shareholders. He is convinced that transparency is progress and that his platform can improve the world. The entrepreneur is also a philanthropist, donating to educational projects or to the Silicon Valley Foundation with his wife Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician, whom he met at the university. On December 1, 2015, the couple announced the birth of their first daughter, Maxima, and the creation of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The organization responsible for working in favor of health and education will gradually be endowed with 99% of their Facebook shares, they explain in a letter published on the social network. The billionaire thus constructs an image that contrasts with the figure of the arrogant genius described in particular by David Fincher’s film. The Social Network, released in 2010 and which traces the history of the creation of the site.
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Theft of ideas, use of personal data … controversies are piling up
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The latest scandal, the hacking of more than 50 million accounts, revealed in October, following the discovery of a security breach. A bug that falls badly after the Cambridge Analytica affair which had plunged Facebook into turmoil after the data leaked from 87 million accounts, used by this consulting firm for the purpose of political profiling. Summoned by the American senators then by the European Parliament, Mark Zuckerberg had then multiplied the excuses and assured that the network is working hard to prevent such a diversion from happening again. Missed ! And rather hypocritical since its business model is precisely based on the exploitation of user data. Rumors calling for the billionaire’s resignation are circulating. But, with 60% of the voting rights, the little genius has secured his back. He cannot be fired. It remains to be seen if the one who repeatedly refused to sell his baby for a tidy sum during his promising debut could choose to leave the ship in the midst of a storm.
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>> Find other articles on web patterns in our special issue “The methods of digital geniuses” on sale at newsstands and in digital.
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