We Saw The Facebook Movie: The Social Network

To say Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is portrayed as having little regard for others is an understatement. Yet as much as I wanted to hate him I couldn’t. There’s someone else in the movie to hate.

We went to see “The Social Network” this afternoon. That’s the new movie about Facebook written by Aaron Sorkin. If you check Facebook more that a dozen times a day you’ll be going too!

Wondering why Saturday afternoon? Just look at the box office numbers from Friday night alone when 2,771 theaters sold $8,000,000 in tickets! We didn’t want to get shut out or be forced to sit in the first row.

The movie traces Mark Zuckerberg: geek, nerd, socially awkward smart smart guy Harvard student who had the idea (sort of) and wrote the code that made “TheFacebook.com,” and then Facebook a social phenomena.

To say Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is portrayed as having little regard for others is an understatement. Yet as much as I wanted to hate him I couldn’t. There’s someone else in the movie to hate. More on Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) in a moment.

As Zuckerberg’s creation begins to take off he becomes more in demand. His application crashes the Harvard computer network at 4:00 AM. He is hit on by beautiful Asian groupies&#185 as “The Facebook” usage continues to surge. Finally, Sean Parker the business oriented co-founder of Napster enters his life as an evil angel.

Standby. I’ll get to Parker soon.

The story is told in anecdotal flashback spawned from a series of actual depositions. Whether the anecdotes are true is anyone’s guess. Sorkin says:

This is a nonfiction story about two lawsuits that were brought against Facebook at roughly the same time where the defendant, the plaintiffs and the witnesses all came into the deposition room and swore an oath.

Of course everyone’s deposed testimony differed. There’s a lot of truth to pick from. Recently people who should know have said there’s a lot more fiction than fact. Who’s to say? Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) for Zuckerberg the movie will probably trump history!

What’s not in dispute is Zuckerberg did pay an eight figure settlement to a group led by identical twin Harvard students who said Facebook was really a project they proposed and he agreed to code for them. Also not in dispute is a payment to Zuckerberg’s original partner who was squeezed out under pressure from Sean Parker but walked away with cash and a perpetual website credit line.

OK–Parker time.

Sean Parker is a real life character. Though Sorkin’s script makes him “the Napster guy” I immediately went to Google. I remembered Napster’s genius as Shawn Fanning. We’re both right. Fanning was the coding guy. Parker was the business guy. Fanning was the only one I’d heard of until today.

Sorkin makes Sean Parker the biggest schmuck here. All Zuckerberg wanted was for his website to grow so he would be validated. Traffic was his goal. He says (often) money is not his motivating factor. It was Parker, as Zuckerberg’s Svengali, who convinced him the ultimate target should be cash and convinced him to screw his best friend and co-founding partner!

You see why it’s easy to hate him?

It’s funny considering the subject matter but this was an action picture with a rapid pace. As with anything Aaron Sorkin touches the writing was tight with no dialog wasted. I was envious of the partying college life I saw (a life that sadly didn’t exist… or more likely just didn’t invite me while I was in college) early on, but not at all envious of the dark path Zuckerberg followed to success.

I never saw him happy. Money really can’t buy it, can it?

&#185 – The movie makes a point of the fascination Jewish men have with Asian woman. I can’t explain why except to say it’s true. The movie tries to make the case it’s a two-way street. I’ve seen little… OK, no… evidence for that.

Will Greed Bite Some Companies In The Butt?

Hey Apple, Google and Facebook I’m talking to you!

It’s a bad time to be greedy. I’m not saying every greedy company is going to get smacked (Do dreams ever come true?), but there will be some examples made. There must be some schvitzing going on at the highest levels of BP and Goldman Sachs.

Or, possibly, those companies feel they’re impervious to our wrath. Alas, they’re probably right.

On the other hand open greediness is not good for companies that make their money the old fashioned way–selling to consumers.

Hey Apple, Google and Facebook I’m talking to you!

Let’s start with Apple because this is a company so cool until recently its sh*t didn’t stink. Product-after-product came down the pipe on the backs of unicorns, gleaming with glitter. Apple’s products dominate the high end of computing and telephony where the highest profits lie.

You would think they’d be happy in Cupertino. Guess not.

Apple has shown a desire to control every part of your experience once you buy any of their products. They have done it in such a ham fisted that even Apple fanboys are starting to question their motives. These are the people who earlier would have testified on Apple’s behalf in any sh*t don’t stink litigation.

Apple’s brouhaha with Adobe over Flash is but one example of how not to do it in PR. The same goes for its iron fisted grip on what the iPhone can and cannot do (like sync to your computer wirelessly–one of many built-in capabilities Apple has forbidden from being implemented).

Actually, the best example of foot shooting comes from Apple’s ban of an app meant to show Mark Fiore‘s animated cartoons. Right after Apple turned the app down Fiore won a Pulitzer Prize. Oops. Apple relented after the damage was done.

Now Facebook is perilously close to MySpacing! The recent graphic depiction of Facebook’s shifting privacy policies and a few recently unearthed quotes from founder Mark Zuckerberg showing his contempt for his own users will drive people away.

The bad news for Facebook is this PR debacle is happening so quickly that users might revolt without even knowing what they’re revolting against. It makes no difference. Facebook will be the loser.

Of course the reason Facebook’s privacy policies have become so much less user friendly over time is because there’s more money to be made when privacy isn’t respected. That’s more greed in action.

Shouldn’t there be a point when you make more money by innovating not compromising your customers inner secrets?

Finally there’s Google. Just today Google had to backtrack on what information they get as their “Street View” vehicles comb the world. It seems they’re not just taking photos. They’re also scanning to identify WiFi hotspots so they can connect IP addresses with physical locations.

“It’s now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) Wi-Fi networks, even though we never used that data in any Google products,” Alan Eustace, senior vice president for engineering and research

CNET headlines their story about this: “Google: Oops, we spied on your Wi-Fi.” Your information is converted into their revenue stream.

Luckily for Google their biggest search competitor is Microsoft, a previous greed poster child.

The problem for all these companies is their products are becoming more like commodities every day. The iPhone isn’t the only smartphone of its kind anymore. Facebook’s functionality can easily be replicated. Others can perfect search.

For these companies their good name is worth more every day, but only as long as it is actually a good name.

Maybe these exceptionally profitable web companies should realize their users are what gets them the cash. It’s the 21st Century. Their customers will turn on a dime.

Why All The Money?

It’s a good week to be Mark Zuckerberg. First, it’s always good to be 22 years old (or so I remember). Second, it’s nice to have a little nest egg to fall back on. In his case that’s Facebook.

If you don’t know what Facebook is, don’t worry. You’re probably not a college student and here in the 21st Century, hipness is on a need to know basis.

Briefly, Facebook is a social networking site, like MySpace. Actually, it doesn’t make any difference. It gets a lot of traffic from people advertisers want to reach. Currently, traffic = revenue.

From The New York Times:

When Viacom offered $750 million for Facebook in January, he asked for $2 billion and was rebuffed, according to a person involved in the negotiations. Now, he remains undecided about the latest offer, made in the last few weeks by Yahoo.

That latest offer is for around $900,000,000 (the numbers seem to have more impact fully written out).

I don’t get it. As with the last Internet bubble, the numbers just don’t add up.

Let’s say the software, hardware, infrastructure for Facebook is $10,000,000. Oh, what the hell – make it $50,000,000. That’s got to be way high… really, really way high, but it doesn’t make any difference.

With $900,000,000 you could set up an online competitor to Facebook and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to promote it. Give away bags of money if you want – real bags of money. Buy the user’s allegiance away from Facebook.

How can that not be cheaper than buying Facebook outright&#185?

What is the sense of buying a business that will bill under $50,000,000 this year for close to a $1,000,000,000?

Back before the Internet burst the first time, loads of companies where sold for immense sums. Broadcast.com went to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion. Click on Broadcast.com today – you just get Yahoo!

From Wikipedia:

In April 1999, Broadcast.com was acquired by Yahoo! for $5.7 billion in stock and became Yahoo! Broadcast Solutions. Over the next few years Yahoo! split the services previously offered by Broadcast.com into separate services, Yahoo! Launchcast for music and Yahoo! Platinum for video entertainment. Yahoo! Platinum has since been discontinued, its functionality being offered as part of two pay services, AT&T Yahoo! High Speed Internet and Yahoo! Plus.

As of 2006, neither broadcast.com nor broadcast.yahoo.com are distinct web addresses; both simply redirect to yahoo.com.

The Broadcast.com sale wasn’t a total loss… at least it wasn’t for Mark Cuban, now owner of the Dallas Mavericks and HDNet.

So, Yahoo!, bon chance on this one. They can’t all be overpriced bombs. Can they?

&#185 – This is by no means a rap on Facebook – a perfectly fine site. I’m kvetching about price, not content.