Zuckerberg Hits the Mark

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When Google declared war on Facebook in 2011, by creating Google Plus, its version of a Googified social network, Mark Zuckerberg placed the company on lockdown (Martinez Garcia). The threat to Facebook was real. The company could utilize the integration of its resources like Gmail, YouTube, and other Google properties to grow its network at an exponential rate very quickly (Goodman). In fact, the call to action to join Google Plus was everywhere a user might look (Martinez Garcia). Nothing said of the fact that the product itself was not bad. Photo sharing was arguably better than Facebook’s, its target audience was for photography aficionados, the look of the product was sleek and the concept was minimalist, for which Google has become known (Martinez Garcia). Unlike Facebook, there were no ads poking you in the face. AdWords, Google’s paid advertising juggernaut, could readily bankroll Google Plus. The method was reminiscent of Microsoft’s strategy in the 1990s to upend Netscape, its then competitor. Since Google owned search, it could potentially bump out Facebook, like Microsoft bumped off Netscape and become the dominant entity in the social network arena. 

Initially, Google was not interested in things Facebook (Martinez Garcia). The company was indomitable in the world of search and felt globally invulnerable. Nevertheless, Google started to take note of the fact that there was a precipitous exodus going on, and Google’s talent was entering a revolving door that exited on Facebook’s doorstep. Initially Google blocked the attack by throwing money at the problem. If a valued Google employee received an authentic Facebook offer, they would immediately be given a counter offer which far exceeded that of Facebook. As expected, this created some problems for the company because many from Google started interviewing at Facebook in the hopes of becoming the recipients of the exciting Google windfall. Still there were those who were actually leaving the company. After some thought though, Google decided to implement Google Plus rather than continue to engage in the less than scientific recruitment techniques (Martinez Garcia).  

Google Plus was perceived and addressed as though Google was part of the Soviet Union, whose sole goal it was to topple the United States of America (Goodman). On the day it was launched, Zuckerberg was on, and he rallied the troops like he had never done before. In fact, Mark declared lockdown. Lockdown was a method, exactly as it sounds, where no one could come in or go out of the building while some emergency issue was dealt with. The emergency could be associated with competitive issues or technological matters (Martinez Garcia). Google Plus was certainly an emergency.

Now, with the advent of Google Plus, the companies were in direct competition for users (Martinez Garcia). Everyone was put on notice that it was time for all to up their game and be prepared to fight, by ensuring that Facebook did everything it could to be technologically on point, ensure that the user experience was flawless, and make certain that the site was performing perfectly. Zuckerberg made certain that the troops were ready for war and ensured that everyone’s next steps would be taken looking through that filter. Facebook klatches appeared in small groups to assess all aspects of Google Plus. Paul Adams, a Google defector, and former product designer for Plus, met with Zuckerberg and other top brass, and walked them through the public aspects of Google Plus.

The Facebook lockdown was not a flight of fancy. In fact, prior to its launch, the charismatic and politically astute, Vic Gundotra, Google Plus’ chief architect, was like a bumble bee in the ear of Google’s top brass (Feigerman). Almost like a current day Chicken Little, Gundotra told top brass that the sky was falling: “'Facebook is going to kill us. Facebook is going to kill us,' says a former Google executive. ‘I am pretty sure Vic managed to frighten Larry into action. And voila: Google+ was born’” (Feigerman). But for all of its amazing success in so many other areas, Google had been unable to make a significant dent in social. The list of Google graveyard attempts loom large, like Orkut, Reader, Wave and Buzz (Feigerman). What are these you ask? Exactly! Enough said.

Google seemed not to have a plan in place to differentiate itself from Facebook (Feigerman). Instead, the company seemed to be reactionary and afraid of losing to Facebook, rather than creating a product that people could not do without. In fact, numerous Google employees who spoke under condition of anonymity, said that in 2010-2011, Google was very concerned with loss of its users, employees and its advertising revenue by Facebook and they were having a hard time doing anything about it. The company had become big and clumsy and reacting nimbly and effectively was not in the cards. Even Kent Walker, the company’s general counsel, gave his candid opinion about the social network while at a meeting with regulators and business people in Germany, referring to Google Plus as part of a "painfully long list of unsuccessful Google products" (Feigerman). With the apparent threat of Google Plus taking over the social network business out of the way, and with Vic Gundotra’s Google exit, Zuckerberg and Facebook had won.

Mark Zuckerberg was born on May 14, 1984, in White Plains, New York ("Mark Zuckerberg"). He took an early liking to computers and programming and wrote a messaging program he named Zucknet, for his dentist father, so that when a patient arrived, the receptionist could use the messaging program rather than yelling it out across the room. The family also made use of Zucknet for internal communications. In addition to the messaging program, Mark wrote numerous games with his friends for fun. The budding entrepreneur had a computer tutor who came to his home to teach him as much as he could. The tutor, David Newman, later said of the prodigy, that it was hard to keep up with him. He enrolled in Harvard in 2002. His skills as a computer developer made him the on campus source for anyone seeking development work. He developed two major programs, CourseMatch and FaceMash, both quite popular at the school. Divya Narendra, and twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss later sought Zuckerberg out to create Harvard Connection, a dating social networking site ("Mark Zuckerberg"). Zuckerberg started working with the trio, but later bowed out to start his own project with his friends Eduardo Saverin , Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes. Mark developed a site he named The Facebook, which let users establish profiles, post their pictures and talk with other site members. The site was operated out of a Harvard dorm room until June 2004. Zuckerberg left Harvard in 2004, and moved the company to Palo Alto, California, and by December of that year, the company had 1 million users.

In 2005, a venture capital firm invested in Facebook with an infusion of $12.7 million ("Mark Zuckerberg"). Initially the company was open to ivy league membership, but Zuckerberg then opened Facebook up to high schools, colleges and international schools. Membership grew to 5.5 million by the end of 2005. Prior to funding, Zuckerberg gave his co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, the boot (Carlson 2). He diluted Saverin’s stake in the company and simultaneously let him go. Their relationship broke down after Zuckerberg left Harvard for Palo Alto, and Saverin went to New York to intern at Lehman Brothers. Instant messages indicate that they were not on the same page, Zuckerberg more business, Saverin more looking to party. In addition, Zuckerberg felt betrayed when Saverin placed ads for a job site he created on his own on Facebook. He told Saverin that he knew that Facebook had intended to do something in the job category and that essentially he was now competing with Facebook and getting free ads, to boot. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, came in the form of the need to obtain investment funding. Zuckerberg tried to get Saverin’s attention and get him to come out to Palo Alto so they could take care of the preliminary matters that needed to be addressed for funding, particularly reformatting the company and establishing it as a Delaware corporation. Saverin hemmed and hawed, and ultimately never showed up. Zuckerberg reformatted the LLC into a corporation, bought the LLC and then diluted Saverin’s shares (Carlson 2). 

In 2006, Zuckerberg was sued by the originators of the Harvard Connection, stating that he took their idea when he started working on the project, then later abandoned it, and he needed to compensate them for their loss (Carlson). Zuckerberg denied similarities between the projects, but after later investigation, lawyers checked into Instant Messages which revealed that there may have been an intentional taking of some information . It was also alleged that he hacked into ConnectU’s site manipulating member profiles – even Cameron Winklevoss. Further, it was alleged that Zuckerberg tampered with a vulnerability in the verification process, creating a false email address and profile, also that he adjusted the privacy settings of other users, and deleted a few accounts.  The parties settled for $65 million, but further allegations of incorrect valuation caused ongoing legal problems well into 2011 ("Mark Zuckerberg"). The Winklevoss twins were unsuccessful at their second go at Facebook (Kalb).

In 2008, Sheryl Sandberg became Chief Operating Officer of Facebook (Bercovici). She came from Google where she was Vice President of Global Online Sales & Operations. Sandberg is one of the most inspirational business executives in the United States. She is author of the best seller Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead, a “feminist manifesto” about achieving ones goals, business leadership and eliminating barriers (including those self-made) to success (Bercovici). She also created LeanIn.org, the site geared to support women who want help achieving their objectives through information, education and peer to peer support. One of Sandberg’s important missions at Facebook has been to show businesses how Facebook advertising works. Since General Motors publically dissed Facebook a few years ago (the diss heard round the world), stating that their advertising was essentially worthless afterwhich the company dropped Facebook from their marketing mix, General Motors has since slinked back to the company and has been achieving the success they sought previously (Bercovici). Sandberg is viewed as being responsible for getting Facebook advertising back on track and is trying to get as many businesses, both large and small, onboard to take advantage of the benefits advertising with the company offers. In fact, Facebook has instituted a new business program that is more consumer-centric, and they have on-boarded Mari Smith, the so-called Queen of Facebook to help promote the concept to both local and international businesses for the social network.  

In 2009, Ben Mezrich wrote the book The Accidental Billionaires which re-told the Zuckerberg/Facebook story inaccurately (Maslin). The book was supposed to be a biographical drama. Despite the criticisms, Mezrich was able to sell the rights to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who developed the Academy Award nominated film The Social Network released and distributewd by Columbia Pictures. The film starred Jesse Eisenberg, as Mark Zukerberg, and Justin Timberlake. The movie covered the period from 2003 through the Winklevoss/Navendra and co-founder Eduardo Saverin lawsuits. Zuckerberg complained about the inaccuracies involved in the film saying that they made sure that they got his t-shirts and fleeces precisely right, but did not spend the same amount of time investigating the more important aspects of the film.

Facebook is currently more valuable than Exxon (Zillman). Facebook reached $328 billion market capitalization compared to Exxon at $315 billion. Mark Zuckerberg is now the sixth richest person on the planet, while Facebook is the number four most valuable company behind Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Works Cited

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Carlson, Nicholas. "How Mark Zuckerberg Hacked Into Rival ConnectU In 2004." The Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc.  5 March 2010. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://www.businessinsider.com/how-mark-zuckerberg-hacked-connectu-2010-3>.

Carlson, Nicholas 2. "How Mark Zuckerberg Booted His Co-Founder Out Of The Company." The Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc.  15 May 2012. Web. 25 June 2016. 

<http://www.businessinsider.com/how-mark-zuckerberg-booted-his-co-founder-out-of-the-company-2012-5>.

Feigerman, Seth. "Inside the failure of Google+, a very expensive attempt to unseat Facebook." Mashable. Mashable, Inc. 2 August 2015. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://mashable.com/2015/08/02/google-plus-history/#UYSdzPzTTPqr>.

Goodman, Ted. "Zuckerberg Ordered ‘Lockdown’ At Facebook The Day Google+ Was Unveiled." The Daily Caller. 4 June 2016. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://dailycaller.com/2016/06/04/zuckerberg-ordered-lockdown-at-facebook-the-day-google-was-unveiled/>.

Kalb, Ira. "Why Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg Won Against Winklevoss Twins." CBS News. CBS Interactive, Inc. 12 April 2011. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-facebooks-mark-zuckerberg-won-against-winklevoss-twins/>.

"Mark Zuckerberg" Biography. A&E Television Networks, LLC. n. d. Web.  25 June 2016. <http://www.biography.com/people/mark-zuckerberg-507402#early-life>.

Martinez Garcia, Antonio. "How Mark Zuckerberg Led Facebook’s War to Crush Google Plus." Vanity Fair. Conde Nast. 3 June 2016. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/06/how-mark-zuckerberg-led-facebooks-war-to-crush-google-plus>.

Maslin, Janet. 'Harvard Pals Grow Rich: Chronicling Facebook Without Face Time." 

The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 19 July 2009. Web. 25 June 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/books/20maslin.html?_r=0>.

Zillman, Claire. "Facebook Is Now More Valuable Than Exxon." Fortune.  Time, Inc. 1 February 2016.  Web. 25 June 2016. <http://fortune.com/2016/02/01/facebook-value-exxon/>.