Mark Zuckerberg: He’s Just Like Us!

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Just one of the bros. Photo: Kim White/Getty Images

The New Yorker's profile of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old "boy king of Silicon Valley," debuted today. Jose Antonio Vargas, Zuckerberg's profiler, gives us some details to put the Hoodied One's importance in perspective. For instance, one out of every fourteenth person now has a Facebook account. And should Zuckerberg, who beat out Steve Jobs, Rupert Murdoch, and the entire Google team in Vanity Fair's New Establishment ranking, take his company public, he'll be one of the richest people on Planet Earth. But in between high-flying dilemmas like whether to actually watch the Aaron Sorkin biopic based on your life, how to tell Yahoo you're saying no to their billion-dollar buyout offer, or how to layer your technology under every known device in such a way as to make Google obsolete, we came away from the 6,159 words with an unexpected feeling. Why, that Mark Zuckerberg, he's really not so different from us.

He was born of human parents:

Zuckerberg grew up in a hilltop house in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Attached to the basement is the dental office of his father, Edward Zuckerberg, known to his patients as “painless Dr. Z.” (“We cater to cowards,” his website reads.)


He is composed of human body parts, and possibly a string, and adorns those parts with human clothing:

Zuckerberg — or Zuck, as he is known to nearly everyone of his acquaintance — is pale and of medium build, with short, curly brown hair and blue eyes. He’s only around five feet eight, but he seems taller, because he stands with his chest out and his back straight, as if held up by a string. His standard attire is a gray T-shirt, bluejeans, and sneakers.


He tries to make himself sound cool on Facebook:

Soon afterward, Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page, “Is there a site that streams the World Cup final online? (I don’t own a TV.)”


He's not really cool with people invading his privacy:

Despite his goal of global openness, however, Zuckerberg remains a wary and private person. He doesn’t like to speak to the press, and he does so rarely. He also doesn’t seem to enjoy the public appearances that are increasingly requested of him. Backstage at an event at the Computer History Museum, in Silicon Valley, this summer, one of his interlocutors turned to Zuckerberg, minutes before they were to appear onstage, and said, “You don’t like doing these kinds of events very much, do you?” Zuckerberg replied with a terse “No,” then took a sip from his water bottle and looked off into the distance.


He knows how to make you feel stupid:

When he’s not interested in what someone is talking about, he’ll just look away and say, “Yeah, yeah.”


Technology has destroyed his capacity for natural human interaction:

Indeed, he sometimes talks like an Instant Message — brusque, flat as a dial tone — and he can come off as flip and condescending, as if he always knew something that you didn’t.


Sometimes, he just feels like saying no:

For his senior project at Exeter, he wrote software that he called Synapse. Created with a friend, Synapse was like an early version of Pandora — a program that used artificial intelligence to learn users’ listening habits. News of the software’s existence spread on technology blogs. Soon AOL and Microsoft made it known that they wanted to buy Synapse and recruit the teen-ager who’d invented it. He turned them down.


He did a dick thing to his friends one time, but pretended like he didn't do anything wrong:

As he tells the story, the ideas behind the two social networks were totally different. Their site, he says, emphasized dating, while his emphasized networking. The way the Winklevoss twins tell it, Zuckerberg stole their idea and deliberately kept them from launching their site. Tall, wide-shouldered, and gregarious, the twins were champion rowers who competed in the Beijing Olympics; they recently earned M.B.A.s from Oxford. “He stole the moment, he stole the idea, and he stole the execution,” Cameron told me recently.


He sent out regrettable IMs:

ZUCK: yea so if you ever need info about anyone at harvard
ZUCK: just ask
ZUCK: i have over 4000 emails, pictures, addresses, sns
FRIEND: what!? how’d you manage that one?
ZUCK: people just submitted it
ZUCK: i don’t know why
ZUCK: they “trust me”
ZUCK: dumb fucks


And then regretted it later:


When I asked Zuckerberg about the IMs that have already been published online, and that I have also obtained and confirmed, he said that he “absolutely” regretted them. “If you’re going to go on to build a service that is influential and that a lot of people rely on, then you need to be mature, right?” he said. “I think I’ve grown and learned a lot.”


His life gets pretty boring when he's in a long-term relationship. [Ed note: Our friend who is a Settlers of Catan fiend described the game as such, "It's kind of like an early-Colonial-themed Monopoly-Risk hybrid. It's also VERY German and almost purely strategic." Creepy!]

They spend most weekends together; they walk in the park, go rowing (he insists that they go in separate boats and race), play bocce or the board game the Settlers of Catan. Sundays are reserved for Asian cuisine.


He finds his rental apartments on Craigslist:

Zuckerberg has found all his homes on Craigslist. His first place was a sparse one-bedroom apartment that a friend described as something like a “crack den.” The next apartment was a two-bedroom, followed by his current place, a two-story, four-bedroom house that he told me is “too big.” He rents. (“He’s the poorest rich person I’ve ever seen in my life,” Tyler Winklevoss said.)


He says no to a billion dollars, so he can say yes to billions of dollars. C'mon, you would do the same thing:

In 2005, MTV Networks considered buying Facebook for seventy-five million dollars. Yahoo! and Microsoft soon offered much more. Zuckerberg turned them all down. Terry Semel, the former C.E.O. of Yahoo!, who sought to buy Facebook for a billion dollars in 2006, told me, “I’d never met anyone — forget his age, twenty-two then or twenty-six now — I’d never met anyone who would walk away from a billion dollars. But he said, ‘It’s not about the price. This is my baby, and I want to keep running it, I want to keep growing it.’ I couldn’t believe it.”


He's not good with authority figures:

In the early years, Facebook tore through a series of senior executives. “A revolving door would be an understatement — it was very unstable,” Breyer said. Within ten days of hiring an executive, Breyer told me, Zuckerberg would e-mail or call him and say that the new hire needed to get the boot.


He can be kind of douchey when he feels threatened:

In late July, Facebook launched the beta version of Questions, a question-and-answer product that seems to be a direct competitor of Quora. To many people, the move seemed a vindictive attack on friends and former employees. In an interview, Cheever declined to comment, as did Matt Cohler, another friend who left the company, and who invested in Quora.


He assumes what's good for him is good for everybody:

Zuckerberg’s critics argue that his interpretation and understanding of transparency and openness are simplistic, if not downright naïve. “If you are twenty-six years old, you’ve been a golden child, you’ve been wealthy all your life, you’ve been privileged all your life, you’ve been successful your whole life, of course you don’t think anybody would ever have anything to hide,” Anil Dash, a blogging pioneer who was the first employee of Six Apart, the maker of Movable Type, said.


He only remembers the most famous line of books he claims he really enjoyed reading:

At a product meeting a couple of years ago, Zuckerberg quoted some lines from the Aeneid. On the phone, Zuckerberg tried to remember the Latin of particular verses. Later that night, he IM’d to tell me two phrases he remembered, giving me the Latin and then the English: “fortune favors the bold” and “a nation/empire without bound.”


The Face of Facebook [NYer]