He has had unprecedented access to Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg for three years. And now renowned tech writer Steven Levy delivers the definitive history of one of America's most powerful and controversial companies: Facebook.
In his sophomore year of college, Mark Zuckerberg created a simple website to serve as a campus social network. The site caught on like wildfire, and soon students nationwide were on Facebook.
Today, Facebook is nearly unrecognizable from Zuckerberg's first, modest iteration. It has grown into a tech giant, the largest social media platform and one of the most gargantuan companies in the world, with a valuation of more than $576 billion and almost 3 billion users, including those on its fully owned subsidiaries, Instagram and WhatsApp. There is no denying the power and omnipresence of Facebook in American daily life. And in light of recent controversies surrounding election-influencing "fake news" accounts, the handling of its users' personal data, and growing discontent with the actions of its founder and CEO, never has the company been more central to the national conversation.
Based on hundreds of interviews inside and outside the company, Levy's sweeping narrative digs deep into the whole story of the company that has changed the world and reaped the consequences.
Steven Levy is editor at large at Wired, and author of eight books, including the new Facebook: the Inside Story, the definitive history of that controversial company. His previous works include the legendary computer history Hackers, Artificial Life, the Unicorn 's Secret, In the Plex (the story of Google, chose as Amazon and Audible's best business book of 2011), and Crypto, which won the Frankfurt E-book Award for the best non-fiction book of 2001. He was previously the chief technology correspondent for Newsweek. He lives in New York City.
A readable history of Facebook. Also, in some senses, a biography of its founder.
I thought Levy was a little too neutral, but maybe that’s the price he had to pay for the level of access he got (many interviews with Zuckerberg, Sandberg, etc.). The book veers a bit into glorifying-boy-genius-founder territory, but does temper that by suggesting a healthy dose of luck was necessary for FB’s success (examples of companies doing similar things at slightly different times, etc.).
Even with the neutral handling, FB comes across ... pretty badly. The company pursued explosive growth above all else and (surprise!) that ended up creating a lot of problems.
“Facebook, [Zuckerberg says], attacks problems of business and culture in the same way a coder solves problems. ‘Running [a company is] not so different from writing code where you’re writing different functions and in subroutines ... I do think there’s something really fundamental to this engineering mindset.’”
I feel like that says a lot.
The only way you could liken programming and running a company in a non-facile way if the company’s success metrics are simple and also the absolute only thing that matters. In this case, the company was optimized for growth. All of the “sub-routines” were directed towards that goal, with little to no attention paid to the toxic byproducts of a single-minded quest for more users, more engagement.
Levy suggests as much: “Virtually every problem that Facebook confronted during its post-election woes had been a consequence of two things: the unprecedented nature of the mission to connect the world, and the consequences of its reckless haste to do so.”
After an employee suggested a feature idea that Zuckerberg didn’t like: “Zuckerberg’s answer was to walk over to one of the omnipresent whiteboards and scrawl one word: Growth. ‘He said that if any feature didn’t do that, he was not interested,’ wrote [an early employee], ‘That was the only priority that mattered.”
The degree to which Mark Zuckerberg is the soul of FB (for better but most likely for worse) is stunning. I didn’t realize just how much influence he has and the ways in which he pushed out the founders from the big acquisitions (WhatsApp, Instagram, Oculus) to make it easier for him to execute his own vision. Zuckerberg’s selfishness is stunning, at times — at one point FB deleted all of the messages he ever sent on Facebook because he doesn’t want a record of his changing self. Mind you, none of the recipients messages were deleted. As tech journalist Casey Newton tweeted at the time, “[this] highlights Facebook’s actual views on privacy better than any statement it makes on the subject ever will.” Levy: “Under pressure, Facebook promised to allow ex post facto ‘unsends’ for all. The feature took almost a year to implement.”
Another theme — only doing the right thing under external pressure. The real heroes of this book are the tech journalists and academics who exposed FB’s practices and created that external pressure. It seems that FB itself was not set up for any moral or ethical considerations. A fragment from Mark Zuckerberg’s notebook as he designed ‘Open Reg’ (the shift to anyone being able to sign up, not just those with a verified college/HS/company email address): “What makes this seem secure, whether or not it actually is?”
Zuckerberg comes across as willfully clueless — as things started to go downhill at FB, he consolidated power; a darkly funny thread in the book is Levy saying “So and so was promoted to X powerful position; another person from the birthday photo” — the photo in question was taken at Mark Zuckerberg’s birthday with all of his closest friends/colleagues. I’m no business expert but it seems like it could have been a better idea to bring in some outside perspectives as opposed to putting a bunch of yes-men and friends into positions of power?
The section on FB’s role in the 2016 election was really well-done. I knew the broad contours of what happened (negligence on how user data was shared with outside developers, algorithms optimized for engagement, no vetting of people spending millions on ads), but this was an even deeper (and darker) view into the reality. FB was nervous about coming across as hostile to conservative viewpoints (which, in and of itself, is valid and even laudable given the non-conservative viewpoints of the vast majority of its workforce). But the way they went about avoiding that hostile perception feels misguided (and of course, was still all about perception and not at all about reality).
Interesting tidbit: The head of global policy, Joel Kaplan, is a friend of Brett Kavanaugh’s and sat behind him in support during his hearing. At one point, FB considered supporting an initiative from the Obama administration to help increase voter turnout. “Kaplan nixed it, saying it would be partisan for FB to aid anything the president was doing. “I think his reason was, ‘Republicans don’t like voter registration,” says another Facebooker working in DC at the time.”
Levy includes the memo that Andrew Bosworth (early + important employee) sent employees after a round of bad press: “The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good ... It is literally just what we do. We connect people. Period. That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in .... I know a lot of people don’t want to hear this. Most of us have the luxury of working in the warm glow of building products consumers love. But make no mistake, growth tactics are how we got here ... We do have great products but we still wouldn’t be half our size without pushing the envelope on growth.”
In fairness, the memo sparked a lot of anger among Facebook’s workers. But it does seem to represent something about the organizing principle: Growth, at any cost. The sad thing, to me, is that even if FB was half its size or less, the company would have still made many people fabulously wealthy; it would still be massive. But at a much smaller human cost.
TLDR; prioritizing growth at all costs is destined to do more harm than good.
This is well researched and Levy has great access and never sugar coats his criticism of Zuckerberg.
Here’s my problem and it’s a big problem. Levy buys into the Russia used Facebook to alter the 2016 election.
That conclusion is ludicrous. Levy admits these Russians spent about a 100k. What Levy doesn’t mention is that 100k wasn’t even focused on swing states but spewed all over. Levy does mention my favorite Russian meme that had Hillary arm wrestling Jesus. Are we supposed to believe undecided voters were tipped to supporting Trump over this buffoonery?
Finally, he transits in incredulity that a foreign govt would try to mess with an American election. Hmm, like in ‘96 when America gave a floundering Yeltsin $1.2 billion and lots of guys on the ground so the Russian we liked would win his election.
The hypocrisy and the naïveté are only made worse bc the Leftist narrative is digested as if it’s the only reasonable thing to believe.
It's a fascinating book and I did learn some things that I hadn't read before, but I think Levy is a little too besotted by Mark and seems to excuse him and push everyone else under the bus for some of the mistakes that clearly go in his sphere. For example, it was Sheryl's fault that the pre-election cambridge analytica scandal didn't get dealt with? Come on! And other engineers' fault that people weren't told about the privacy breaches? Seems like the common thread is Mark. It's not completely one-sided and there are some points where he analyses the dangers of such a powerful company. I would pair this with Galloway's The Four.
More access journalism than insightful analysis. While the book does benefit from interviews with the top management, there is only cursory discussion of the volleys of criticism that have come Facebook's way - their treatment of privacy data, or their lax enforcement on inciteful material or conspiracy theory.
The first half of the book tends to veer into 'gee whiz, look at the boy genius' territory, but there is some flashes of revealing management's decision processes on how to grow the company - growth first, and only change practices if outside scrutiny threatens that growth.
Interesting, and thorough history even though I’m not a fan of the company or its founder—could have been a tad shorter, and not so awestruck over Zuc. I still think of this one especially in light of recent events.
One quote especially stuck out, something out how the smartest minds of our generation are spending all their brain power and energy on figuring out how to get people to click on more ads. Really depressing thing to think about and it was woven into the narrative quite well.
If I could give it 6 stars I would. This book is a very good, and more importantly, fair and thorough, reflection of the journey Facebook took from a viral phenom in Harvard to the global behemoth today. A good-read for people interested in FB/Silicon Valley, and a must-read for incoming/current FB employees.
Here's a few highlights and takeaways I jotted down, purely abstract takeaways from this book without touching on the actual facts:
1/. You (generic you) need to be in the best environments possible, not only for the resource, but also for the ideas that are sparked, refined and executed at those places. Zuck got the facebook idea from his classmate’s work at Exeter, and later worked on and refined it at Harvard with the smartest people he could find. 2/. internet never forgets - the more inner thoughts you document, the likelier the chance that some of them will be later brought up without context and blown out of proportion. Case in point: Zuck’s own IMs and emails. 3/. facebook is a reflection of its users - bad people exist in this world, bad things happen, and thus bad things are found on fb. But can FB, or even any social media platform do anything different here without invoking the big brother watching feel? big question. maybe there's not a way. 4/. rules look reasonable on book will look absurd in some practical cases (e.g. the Napalm girl photo removal, for content moderation). how do you solve this problem? especially when different cultures are so different with norms and customs. 5/. Sandberg is depicted to be obsessed with her personal brand; lean-in might be a convenient confluence point of what’s she’s passionate about and whats good for her personal brand. I don't think there's necessarily a right/wrong answer, but more of an observation that it's optimal when different life's motivations actually converge. Cambridge Analytics also came up as (as the book suggests) mostly Sandberg's fault. She was not herself when the crisis unfolded (understandably, and I empathized a lot, due to husband's passing a year ago said in the book) and never really understood the platform that well. She is not a tech person, but a comms person through and through - Good PR is everything she cares about. Life is not always good news, and I have not seen enough of Sandberg owning up to her mistakes. 6/. Joel Kaplan is insinuated as a looming conservative influence and rampant with potential conflict of interests - for one, FB hired PWC as its auditor where Kaplan’s wife is a partner. Now the bigger question: why's he still here? Who's his ultimate protector/patron/"buddy"? Why does FB still keep him around? 7/. There’s an interesting parallel between Joel Kaplan and Palmer Luckey and Peter Thiel. All conservatives, but met with very different treatments and outcomes for their Facebook life. Luckey was forced to sign on a news letter penned by Zuck saying he would support an independent against his will, and later unceremoniously fired. Kaplan's doing very well even after the 2016 elections and him being pictured at Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, despite been called to resign repeatedly. Thiel is protected by Zuck and still sits on the board. Lesson here? It doesn't matter what employees' sentiments are or the media outcry is, as long as you are in Zuck's good grace. 8/. Even more interesting parallel between early days Zuckerberg to Kevin Systrom (Instagram), and to Jan Koum (WhatsApp) - probably among the biggest what-ifs to these founders in the tech history. My take is that maybe one of them will eventually survive and evolve to its current size, probably not both; and almost certainly their growth would not have been this faster without FB's infra and cutting-edge growth/analytics team and practice. 9/. Facebook said to regulators that if FB is broken up, Chinese competitors will come in and scoop up the US market. This has proven to be quite a foresight. Just look at TikTok today. 10/. Zuckerberg has repeatedly invoked Cato the Elder according to Levy - who was known for his conservatism and opposition to the “degenerate” Hellenistic influences. This probably sheds some light on Zuck’s personal ideological leanings (which is not really contradictory to his insistence of free speech and expression)
Szokująca. Szczera. Prawdziwa - takie słowa opisują ją na dzień dobry. Czy jest szokująca? DLa mnie absolutnie nie. Jeśli widzieliście film "The Social Network", to macie już jako takie pojęcie, o co w tym wszystkim chodzi (sam film jest zresztą szeroko tu opisany i są do niego nawiązania). Dla tych, co mają głowę na karku i jakiekolwiek pojęcia o świecie, szoku tu nie będzie.
Czy jest szczera? Ciężko mi powiedzieć, bo przez cały czas miałam wrażenie, że jest jednak stronnicza. Steven Levy to dziennikarz, który naprawdę przyłożył się do swojej roboty, ale jednocześnie nie raz powtarza, że zna Marca od wielu lat i przy równie wielu okazjach dowiaduje się o rzeczach jako pierwszy. Jest związany z jego osobą, a przez to ciężko mi powiedzieć, że opisuje to obiektywnie i bardzo mi tego brakowało w trakcie.
Co wyniosłam z tej książki? Że postać Zuckerberga jest śliska - to pierwsze słowo, które przychodzi mi na myśl i że prze po trupach do celu, kompletnie nie zwracając uwagi na opinie ludzi dookoła niego. Jest to zdecydowanie ten typ człowieka, od którego stronię, którego nie lubię i absolutnie nie będę podziwiać. Ale fakt, jaki ten człowiek ma łeb, ile rzeczy osiągnął i jak wiele potrafi - jest to godne uwagi. Co jeszcze wyniosłam? Że Facebook to przeżytek, ochrona danych osobowych w USA to ściema, a jeśli jest multimiliarderem i monopolistą w jakiejś branży to wolno ci wszystko.
Jest ciekawa, nawet jeśli zainteresowanie tematem jest umiarkowane, ale jest jednocześnie okropnie męcząca i mam wrażenie, że jest sporo rzeczy, które można by stąd wyciąć, pominąć albo skrócić.
Това е една доста любопитна книга, която не само дава информация от кухнята, но показва какъв път е извървял един млад гений като Зукърбърг, чиято мечта е била да свързва хората по цялото земно кълбо. На моменти прекалено идилиастична, на моменти прекалено техничарска и с данни от света на програмирането, които са ми непонятни, но и с малко носталгия към това, което е било в началото и това до къде се е развила компанията и технологията днес. Беше ми приятно да си спомня за зарибяването със Зинга игрите, които са били трошиците хванали на кукичката милиони хора, за да "киснат" във фейсбук постоянно и да се връщат за още всеки ден. Аз самата колко покер съм изиграла, а колко хора са садили домати във Фарм вил? Или пък припомнянето на прословутото "сръчкване", което е било единственият метод за комуникация вътре в платформата преди месинджъра! Но освен забавна страна историята е свидетел и на много злоупотреби и не малко протести искащи затварянето на фейсбук поради една или друга причина (описани са доста случаи). Каквото и да се каже за фейсбук, ние сме поколението, което прекарва часове в социалната мрежа и търпи както позитиви, така и негативи. Дали свързвайки хората виртуално, фейсбук не ни открадна нещо много по-важно - общуването лице в лице? Или все пак благодарение на него човек създава контакти и приятелства отвъд границите на възможното при живата комуникация? Каквито и да са отговорите за всеки, едно е ясно - зарибен веднъж, човек трудно може да си представи ежедневието без фейсбук.
What is there to say about Facebook that hasn’t already been said? There isn’t really much in here that you won’t find in the litany of press coverage the company has gotten over the years. This then raises the question of, why bother with putting this together with the multiple years of exclusive access Levy got? Why does exclusive access matter when you could ostensibly put together roughly the same book by stringing together articles from The Verge into chapters?
This book is much too long for its subject matter. It oversimplifies technical explanations for the layperson to the point they’re no longer accurate. Levy’s writing is (subjectively) way too laudatory in tone, though perhaps this was a condition for his level of access. His reporting is factual, which of course paints Facebook in a bad light, but the dissonance between that and him being in awe of his subjects is simply bizarre. I think the primary surprise for me was I came away with a lower opinion of Sheryl Sandberg and Boz than I had going into the book.
Who is this book for, in the first place? People who are interested enough in the topic likely already know the big plot points. The diction and length imply a puff piece requested by Facebook, but the facts themselves are a dry, overwrought Wikipedia article that correctly represent a company that has lost its way under a leader who maniacally obsesses over achieving his goals “at any cost”.
Not only a business biography but also basically a biography of the founder of Facebook, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg. Very detailed and well researched which I expected since Steven Levy was well connected to Facebook and to MZ himself for many years. I already knew a bit about the Facebook story and the struggles they faced on their way to the top. Really interesting to see how privacy was always and still is a key challenge and how the dealt with it over and over again.
With the privacy disaster of 2016s election Facebook will be monitored by more and more institutions and I'm really excited how they will deal with all that's gonna come.
Tells the story of Facebook, and stories of all its other major apps such as whatsapp and instagram. and discusses facebook's approaches towards privacy, growth and future palns. as well about major scandals especially the recent ones during the 2016 election.
Pomerne dobrá a čitateľná história Facebooku, od jeho vzniku až po súčasnú dobu a kauzy.
To že táto kniha vôbec vznikla v takej podobe ako vznikla, je relatívny zázrak, pretože autor dostal exkluzívny prístup nie len do firmy, ale aj ku samotnému zakladateľovi. Dalo by sa povedať že najväčšiu cenu ktorú za to musel zaplatiť bola prílišná neutralita. Nie žeby opisoval Facebook ako nevinnú malú firmičku, ale pri niektorých obzvlášť dôležitých veciach, ako napríklad “mishandling of election interference” by bola vhodná väčšia kritika a hlavne plné zobrazenie následkov, ktoré to malo.
Výsledkom je priateľsky pohľad do duše spoločnosti i Marka Zuckerberga s občasným obhliadnutím na chyby a prekážky ktorým čelili, z ktorého si vie čitateľ dobre predstaviť ako Facebook vznikol a aká je filozofia za ním a rozhodnutiami, ktoré jeho predstavitelia robili.
What a long journey it has been. It's the most recent book(as of 2021) with everything about the beginning of facebook to now. The author did a good job at the story-telling, it includes the beginning of thefacebook, growth, acquisition and also recent challenged. I love the first half very much, the second half is full of information but it's less compelling. Overall, it's a really good read.
It's mostly about facebook the company and its business model, its founder and all the executives.
It was interesting reading. It made me think a lot even though I’ve already had some information. The whole story started with an idea to create a platform for college students which would allow them to communicate and connect with each other. It was a nice idea until it went global and shit started to happen. I mean shit such as promises that this company didn’t keep, pretty bad privacy violation, data stealing and selling, hoaxes and fake news spreading (I mean the speed of spreading), and much more. We don’t really know or realize what they are capable of. You may think these apps are free and you and your data are safe, but are they really? Just think about it. Nothing is really for free, there is always a price we have to pay even though we don’t realize it. Just think before you post. The internet never forgets.
Musím povedať, že táto kniha bola veľmi zaujímavá a dobre sa mi čítala (povedzme mne ako laikovi). Kniha ma donútila zamyslieť sa a prehodnotiť určité veci, aj keď som už pred samotným čítaním mala na túto tému nejaké informácie. Všetko sa začalo pomerne nevinným nápadom vytvoriť platformu, ktorá by vysokoškolákom umožnila lepšie spojenie a komunikáciu v online priestore. Avšak všetko sa zmenilo, keď sa táto platforma dostala medzi širokú verejnosť. Vtedy sa začali diať nepríjemné a nekorektné veci. Myslím tým rôzne sľuby užívateľom, ktoré spoločnosť nedodržala; závažné porušovanie súkromia užívateľov; kradnutie a predávanie dát užívateľov; šírenie hoaxov a falošných správ (áno, takéto správy sa šíria aj na iných platformách, no na sociálnych sieťach sa im výnimočne darí a šíria sa rýchlo ako lesný požiar) a omnoho viac. My si ani len nevieme predstaviť (alebo radšej ani nechceme), čoho všetkého sú schopní. Môžete si muslieť, že tieto aplikácie / platformy sú zadarmo a že vy a vaše dáta ste v bezpečí, no je to naozaj tak? Skúste sa nad tým zamyslieť. Nič nie je v skutočnosti zadarmo. Vždy je tu nejaká cena, ktorú musíme zaplatiť, aj keď si to možno neuvedomujeme. Na záver už len toľko: Nezabúdajte, internet nikdy nezabúda. Preto najskôr premýšľajte a až potom vypisujte statusy, komenty, či zdieľajte nejaký obsah.
I appreciated that at the start of the book the author presented everything matter-of-factly, but towards the second half this changed.
All events were highly dramatized and some of the epithets used to describe different situations were hyperbolized to demonize the company. The image presented towards the end of the book is focused solely on the negative side, overlooking any positive or optimistic views by brushing them off with snarky comments. The positive views that do get mentioned are often accompanied by sarcastic and seldom mean displays of incredulity.
The book left me with the strong impression of unjustified ruthlesness. The author scrutinized the company and showed a view of opposing all technological advances, for the fear of risk. More time should have been spent on the trade-off that comes with innovation, rather than displaying and encouraging bias against it.
If you want an entertaining remix of the facts, I would recommend watching 'The Social Network.' It's equally inaccurate and has a better soundtrack.
Having worked closely on the areas that Levy covers, I can affirm that Levy is no Bob Woodward. Levy's book reads like a summary of press from 2017-2019, too busy dunking on Facebook's mistakes to bring any new insight to the table. If you want to understand Facebook, read Ben Thompson's newsletter, or Chaos Monkeys, a book written by an actual (if disgruntled) insider.
Steven Levy is the dean of Silicon Valley journalists, and this is the acme of access journalism, based on multiple interviews with Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, and hundreds of interviews with key Facebook employees.
Levy moves through the conventional history of a tech start-up. Mark the Harvard wunderkind, who ignored his classes to focus on making cool things. He captured lightning in a bottle with thefacebook, a social networking site focused on Harvard and other Ivy League schools.
If I might personally digress for a moment, I'm the prototypical Facebook user. HS class of 2005, elite colleges immediately thereafter. I spent my teenage years on AIM and forums, but didn't use MySpace. To 19 year old me, with my old social network scattered across the country, and overwhelmed by the size of my colleges, Facebook felt profoundly real in a way that little else did. It was easy to use. The interface was a calming blue, unlike the teenage bedroom chaos of MySpace. It was a blank space where a profoundly immature person could shed the skin of childhood and become an adult. Zuckerberg had some good ideas and coding chops, but he also got lucky with a technological moment where wifi and laptops became good enough that it was normal for college students to spend hours a day on or near a computer. I have slightly older friends who only used library/lab computers to write papers. Facebook would have never caught on in that environment. But not only did Facebook catch on, it caught the most valuable demographic in America at the most critical time of their life.
On the backs of users just like me, Zuckerberg built the company from a frathouse pack of coders, literally, everyone working and sleeping out of rented Silicon Valley houses at first, into a multi-billion dollar tech titan. He scaled relentlessly, adding new features to handle photos, the Newsfeed, chat, and a revenue stream in the form of demographically targeted advertising. Possibly guided by the Roman conquerors he so admires, Zuckerberg avoided getting acquired himself while making key acquisitions in Instagram and Whatsapp. There's a shocking confidence to the financial and technological decisions he made.
At the same time, Facebook made engineering choices which would come to haunt them. An initiative called Platform opened Facebook's trove of data to developers, which came with spammy games (remember Farmville?), and unscrupulous actors who harvested deep 'friend-of-friend' data without even the basic pretense of an EULA. Relentlessly focused on Growth (caps intended, it's the name of a key FB division), Facebook dropped other priorities.
The volcano erupted in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump and revelations that Russian intelligence had used Facebook advertising to try and influence the election. It's unclear how much effectiveness Russian intelligence had. But it's definitely true that Trump's digital operation massively outmaneuvered the Clinton campaign on Facebook, using rapidly iterating A-B testing to find the exact issues to swing specific voters and suppress Clinton supporters. Facebook offered the same support to both campaigns, but the Clinton campaign declined and lost. The bad news just kept coming, with the evil data analytics of Facebook partner Cambridge Analytica and their 50+ million shadily obtained profiles, a content moderation policy that manages to be arbitrary, inhumane, and feckless, bruising Congressional testimony, and host of former executives quitting and speaking out against the company.
Facebook has spent the past few years in a very dark place, with Zuckerberg declaring himself a "wartime CEO" and replacing internal skeptics with friends and loyalists. Growth of the main "Blue" app has been basically flat, and it is deeply uncool with teenagers. Having burnt so much trust, any action by Facebook is seen in the worst possible light, with real effects like the scuttling of proposed internet currency Libra. Every political faction has reason to hate Facebook. Facebook rebranded to Meta in 2021, after this book was published, and is focusing on smaller conversation via Groups, and next-generation platforms like the virtual reality Metaverse.
I began this book by talking about "access journalism", and the reason is that even though he speaks candidly of the company's flaws, Levy buys into Zuckerberg's essentially idealistic framing. Connecting everyone in the world is essentially good, and the spate of conspiracy theories and social dislocation are minor unforeseeable consequences. Sure, Facebook has made mistakes, but they're learning and improving. Maybe they're worth trusting, just a little bit. Really bad people wouldn't be so candid.
I don't know. This is a fascinating book, but when the history is finally settled, algorithmically enhanced social media platforms might fall in the "THIS IS NOT A PLACE OF HONOR" category of technologies, along with leaded gasoline and the hydrogen bomb.
Facebook is the company that has the biggest influence on how people communicate. We all need to see how it operates, and its historical context for its actions, in order to understand its modern day issues on data and treatment of user privacy.
Levy guides us with great detail via exclusive interviews and insider information for how Facebook came to be, with a slight narrative focus on its unforeseen negative effects on society. This focus is good and makes the book captivating, because most of us are probably reading this book because of the Cambridge Analyica revelation or other interest in what Facebook is doing wrong. He keeps the tone balanced: teaching us all the issues and yet never going into a "Facebook is terrible" rant.
Once the big characters of Facebook management have been exposed, everything make sense. Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, and Chamath Palihapitiya had focuses on software and growth. Naturally, all the other influences that the company had were not examined as they unraveled, due simply to the specialty and focus of the company from management. Facebook brings in farms of people to stare at images 40 seconds at a time for a draconian attempt at censorship, their quick hires of a couple of lawyers here and there to manage impossible sized tasks of determining what is "acceptable content"; this is what happens when no one ever defined what role you want to play in the way you are distributing content.
Zuckerberg's profound influence on all of Facebook's users is probably the biggest revelation from the book. Whether its deciding which companies get users data, whether data sharing is opt in or opt out, what ads are going to look like, news feed details, buying Instagram and managing it, buying Whatsapp and managing it, Mark Zuckerberg has amassed decision-making power unseen before in modern companies.
As we grapple with Facebook's privacy and data policies, Facebook is struggling with these issues itself. Levy gives us both the reasons why the facts are important, and detailed presentation that is required to understand Facebook's past.
Both An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination and Facebook: The Inside Story are the most comprehensive books about FB.
The former reported on stories that are not as well collaborated since it had few witnesses to the incidents, and also less flattering to FB; and FB corporate refused to work with the authors.
The latter is less critical, and had full cooperation from corporate. The author had also been interviewing Zuckerburg since the very early days of FB, and built up a rapport with him over the years.
If you want to know the full extent the the damage FB has done, read the former. If you're more interested in how FB operates as a business and the fun/interesting parts of it's early history (especially if you loved the story behind the movie The Social Network), read the latter. Though both do a decent job on both.
The latter's overall criticism can be summed up as: FB was too naive for the responsibility it gained and was too aloof to handle its challenges [though at times its more harsh than that]. The former's overall criticism is that facebook willfully let damage happen in order to increase profits. Note: this is a very oversimplified take.
If you loved reading one book, the other is worth reading.
-About how tech and silicon valley influences political systems: I highly recommend The Contrarian, a book about Peter Thiel. It actually shares the same audiobook narrator as the latter.
-About tech business: I recommend No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram, Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson, the Amazon books by Brad Stone, and Samsung Rising.
Myśle, że 3,5⭐️ będzie sprawiedliwe dla tej książki. Z jednej strony autor miał naprawdę duże pole do popisu dzięki ogromnemu dostępowi do siedziby Facebooka jak i do samego szefa wszystkich szefów czyli Zuckerberga. Dużo informacji, fajny przystępny język i ciekawa forma opowieści. Ale…. No właśnie duża swoboda poruszania się po facebookowych siedzibach, uczestnictwo autora w wielu przemówieniach Zuckerberga i możliwość rozmowy z nim sam na sam, miały swoją cenę i to widać w tej historii. Autor stara się przedstawić obie strony facebookowe działaności ale kiedy przechodzi do trudnych tematów, niestety czuje się, że został tu mocno ustawiony do pionu a wiele rzeczy jest po prostu autoryzowane przez szefostwo fb. W wielu recenzjach zarzuca się tej książce mocną neutralność i brak zdecydowanych ocen tych złych praktyk fb i ja się pod tym podpisuje, ale tez rozumiem, że coś za coś. Myśle, że z szefem fb będzie jak ze Stevem Jobsem, póki żyje, publikacje na jego temat będą mocno cenzurowane i sprawdzane przez jego sztaby, a każdy kto zdecyduje się wypowiedzieć w mocno krytyczny sposób zostanie „zniszczony”.
After being a cog in Facebook's system for about a year now, I wanted to peer into the internal machinery that allows the company to execute so efficiently. That machinery is well oiled through Zuck's 51% controlling share of the company — this allows him unilateral control over anything that Facebook does. For better, or for worse.
It's clear that Zuck and Co. had idealistic ideas for the future of social applications, but when you "move fast and break things", you can only make sense of things in hindsight. Facebook pursued explosive growth above everything else, leading to problems nobody could have predicted.
There's no doubt that the Facebook empire is a huge part of our modern social fabric and is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Steven Levy has had an incredible amount of exposure to Facebook and its leaders and has documented it in this comprehensive tome. Neutral and entertaining — if you want a broad understanding of Facebook from its not-so-humble beginnings to now, this is the book to read.
Very detailed, interesting look at the origins of Facebook and it's first nearly 15 years of existence. Levy is a great tech writer and clearly had tons of sources for this one. My only minor gripe about the book itself is that it probably could've been edited and refined a bit more. I didn't need a two paragraph bio of every single Facebook employee or executive that pops up in the story - just felt like unnecessary resume sharing at a certain point.
But the book is definitely worth reading if you're interested in tech, privacy, or you're just a Facebook user. Even if you can't make it through all 600 pages, the chapter titled "Election" (about Facebook's public policy stances and what led to the 2016 election) is completely fascinating. The number of times Facebook either was in complete denial or was willfully idealistic and missed the opportunities for someone to do something nefarious with its products or capabilities is staggering. The same scenario plays out time and time again, and it's not clear Zuckerberg or Sandberg have learned anything yet about the responsibility to try to curtail behavior in some respects. Above all, they appear to prioritize "Growth" at almost any cost.
Overall, a worthwhile read to better understand Facebook and how it operates, and also see the "true" version behind "The Social Network" movie.
So, first off, this was a fascinating book. Levy got first-hand access to Facebook's top execs. However, with that access, the book felt that it pulled some punches as a kind of "thank you" for the exclusive access, and didn't seem to ask the real hard-hitting questions.
I also found Sandberg's sections were very boring. It was like she avoided every question.