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The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World

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The inside story of Facebook, told with the full, exclusive cooperation of founder Mark Zuckerberg and the company's other leaders.

In little more than half a decade, Facebook has gone from a dorm-room novelty to a company with 500 million users. It is one of the fastest growing companies in history, an essential part of the social life not only of teenagers but hundreds of millions of adults worldwide. As Facebook spreads around the globe, it creates surprising effects—even becoming instrumental in political protests from Colombia to Iran.

Veteran technology reporter David Kirkpatrick had the full cooperation of Facebook’s key executives in researching this fascinating history of the company and its impact on our lives. Kirkpatrick tells us how Facebook was created, why it has flourished, and where it is going next. He chronicles its successes and missteps, and gives readers the most complete assessment anywhere of founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the central figure in the company’s remarkable ascent. This is the Facebook story that can be found nowhere else.

How did a nineteen-year-old Harvard student create a company that has transformed the Internet and how did he grow it to its current enormous size? Kirkpatrick shows how Zuckerberg steadfastly refused to compromise his vision, insistently focusing on growth over profits and preaching that Facebook must dominate (his word) communication on the Internet. In the process, he and a small group of key executives have created a company that has changed social life in the United States and elsewhere, a company that has become a ubiquitous presence in marketing, altering politics, business, and even our sense of our own identity. This is the Facebook Effect.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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David Kirkpatrick

3 books24 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 593 reviews
Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
388 reviews113k followers
March 23, 2011
This is a book that every entrepreneur definitely needs to read, and everyone who works even remotely with Facebook needs to read. It does a simply amazing job going behind the scenes of Facebook and describing where the site came from, how it got to where it is, and where it's going.

The author had amazing inside access to Mark Zuckerberg and other key Facebook employees and investors. Very smart of Facebook to include David so often - it makes their story fully open, which is consistent with the values of their company - not to mention good PR.

The biggest takeaway I had was that Zuckerberg actually has much more of a vision and philosophy than I gave him credit for. The basic vision for Facebook is that it's a communication tool. It's very interesting to see that they think of it as a utility tool and not a media destination (like MySpace no doubt does). It means they are not afraid of sending traffic away from their site as long as they provide value up front - something that has been crucial to their success.

Zuckerbergs philosophy however is more interesting - he believes being open is better and will lead to a better society. He thinks the internet will inevitably enable this anyways, so Facebook might as well lead the charge. It's an interesting and idealistic philosophy - basically that it's really hard for a person to be dishonest or immoral in any way if their whole life is laid open to their friends. In fact, one has to strive to be an even better person, because everything we do is not being tracked and if it isn't already online, it will be soon. The books we read, the things we buy, the people we date, the places we go, the people we associate with - all this is online, and defines who we are. Would my future children be proud of me if they examined my life's consumption? If I knew they were going to do so, would I make better choices? Absolutely.

However the privacy road has rocked many people's worlds who haven't gotten the hint yet and EVERYTHING you put online, whether on Facebook or a seeming private place elsewhere, is ultimately public. The chapter on privacy listed many of these horror stories, and I certainly know more than a few stories of people who have been burned by having an inappropriate photo on Facebook or tweeting something inappropriate. The road to openness is happening - and I think Mark is right that it's going to make us better as a society. The danger, however, is that it will still cause many people a lot of pain as we get there - and may cause many to ultimately retreat from Social Networking (and the internet). I think Mark knows his responsibility there as his service depends on it, and I hope he's a good steward, as this is certainly a topic we debate a lot at Goodreads.

I worked in Social Networking during the Rise of Facebook - my company, Tickle, is even mentioned a few times in the book. This book made the mistakes we made at Tickle even more apparent. Hindsight is a ...! For instance, starting with colleges that were *private* was what really worked - everyone had no problems sharing everything with their fellow classmates and alums.

Facebook's biggest product innovation though was of course Platform. Followed perhaps by the Like button and Facebook Connect - which are really only possible because so many people use Facebook. Both were big wins, and were interesting pushed hard by Zuckerberg, and their success really validated him as a leader internally.

One interesting note that I hadn't considered was that because everyone uses their real names on Facebook, blogs that use Facebook Connect for comments (eg Huffington Post) don't have the troll problem as much, because of the openness issue (see above).

The book was also very interesting as it gave a lot of the details of how Facebook was financed, how the VC deals were structured, what sort of offers it got, etc. Zuckerberg was courted to sell by so many large companies, I had always wondered how he had the nerve to say no - most in his shoes would have sold out for millions or billions long ago. The answer seems to be that he doesn't really value money, and also that he knows this is his big Life's Opportunity to change the world - and to sell now would be to squander it.

The book also gave interesting insight into where Facebook thinks they are going. In the future they think they will be less of a destination site, and more of a social communication enabler. Everything that can be social will be, and it will be done with Facebook. Every website you visit, your TV, video games, and perhaps even your cereal box will one day have Facebook Connect.
Profile Image for Alok Mishra.
Author 9 books1,184 followers
April 17, 2022
Whitewashing, out of date, acritical, biased, useless, and not recommended. The title led me into believing that the author might be a visionary. However, it turned out to be a case of propping someone as a messiah without reading the charges.
Profile Image for Hesamul Haque.
75 reviews63 followers
June 26, 2017
Some people are genius, some people are ambitious, some people are lucky.
Mark is all of the three.
And life is all about people and Facebook helps you to connect with the right kind of people.
Author 3 books338 followers
April 26, 2013
This book is already slightly out of date, but it is a well-reported and engaging summary of Facebook's history and impact through 2010. When Kirkpatrick waxes about big picture issues, he is smart, strikes the exact right tone, and doesn't belabor his own points.

Not a Facebook user until 2009, in reading this book I was most struck with how important Zuck's commitment to minimalism was to the company's early success. As its most successful competitors, Twitter and Tumblr, have a similar commitment to simplicity and minimalism, I wonder if a return to minimalism may hold the key to Facebook's long-term viability as well.

This is a bit random, but I couldn't help noticing that Kirkpatrick described three of the very few women mentioned by name in the book as having "a round face":

Robin Reed, early employee:
Reed, middle-aged with short blond hair framing a round face and a New Age propensity to wear wooden beads wrapped around her wrist, wasn't interested.

Ruchi Sanghvi, News Feed engineer:
...Ruchi Sanghvi, a beatific Carnegie-Mellon computer engineering graduate with a round face and long black hair.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO:
Sandberg is an elegant, slightly hyper, light-spirited forty-year-old with a round face whose bobbed black hair reaches just past her shoulders.

What the. No love for that roundest of heads Marc Andreessen?



"Buyers have repeatedly offered astounding sums of money—billions—if he would sell it. But Zuckerberg is more focused on 'getting stuff done' and convincing more people to use his service than he is on getting rich from it."

*stares pointedly in the direction of Goodreads HQ*
54 reviews
November 20, 2010
An interesting read, though it was about twice as long as it needed to be. It is unbelievable the number of companies begging to put money by the millions into FB, and also amazing that the CEO Mark Zuckerberg has resisted so many opportunities to sell and become very wealthy - or to even go public with an IPO. Having been in the world of IT for so many years, I was blown away by the numbers of users being added every day - at one point a million. Yes, a million. It sounds like they only had a couple of data centers, all in the USA, though there are plans to build more. How they ever kept up with the server hardware and network demands is a huge part of the story - but not a point of interest for author. Zuckerberg has a real long term view for the company - as recently attested to by their entry into the email business. I, however, have a hard time swallowing the majority of his views on how FB is and will be changing the world in fundamental ways - other than some interesting notes on political activism, particularly outside of the USA.
3 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2021
Interesting read. It is very interesting how the world has changed with social media and facebook. Eye opening. Kind of make me to wonder if social media could have been used for social good instead of fake news etc. One of the reasons I liked this another book which I really liked is Prasad Kothari's book on Healthcare Social Media Management and Analytics - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2... It shows that all is not lost. Facebook etc can b e still used for good purpose.
Profile Image for Michael.
214 reviews52 followers
December 31, 2010
Kirkpatrick's The Facebook Effect is a journalistic approach to the development and changes in Facebook as a platform and company since its inception. The book is easy and fairly quick to read, and chock full of details. At times, I think it was a bit too heavy on advertising approaches and financial issues, but overall, it was enjoyable. The book also serves as a nice counterpart to the dramatized The Social Network, and provides some factual accounts that the movie glosses over, dramatizes, or changes for filmic and dramatic effect.

Kirkpatrick spends a chapter chronicling the beginning of Facebook, from Zuckerberg's Facemash (23-24) to the development of Thefacebook at Harvard, which he notes was "from the beginning driven by the hormones of young adults" with the ability to mark what one was "Looking for" and "interested in" (32). Later chapters place Facebook in the context of other social networks at the time, explore how they got investors and advertisers, changes in the platform and reactions to those changes, the move from Harvard to California, and other issues and experiences.

One of the issues that Kirkpatrick discusses is privacy, and the constantly shifting privacy policies and new privacy issues that Facebook constantly dealt with as they rolled out new features. Part of the reason people trust Facebook, Kirkpatrick claims, is that the platform relies on and requires a real identity. He quotes Chris Kelly, who heads privacy at Facebook: "Trust on the Internet depends on having identity fixed and known" (13). Zuckerberg also believes that to have multiple identities shows "al lack of integrity," and that the world is becoming more transparent, so it's pragmatic to have just one identity on a social networking site (198). Zuckerberg also attributes people's willingness to be open and "real" on Thefacebook to the platform's orderliness: unlike Myspace, which allowed users to do just about anything, Thefacebook was structured and ordered from the beginning (100). Kirkpatrick devotes an entire chapter on Privacy (Chapter 10).

With almost every new feature, Facebook was critiqued for harming privacy. For instance, the News Feed, which was developed to make content more easily accessible (because before, you had to go to users' pages to see if they've updated), led to many feeling that Facebook was allowing for stalking. Facebook responded with new privacy features (188-194)

Facebook's platform itself gets a lot of attention in the book. Zuckerberg had a vision of a platform where people would use it as they needed, and he understood Facebook as helping people "understand the world around them" and other people, not as a waste of time (143). He called Facebook "a utility," attempting to get the platform out of the way so that people could just interact (144, 160). Aaron Sittig, a graphic designer who worked for Facebook, said, "We didn't want people to have a relationship with Facebook so much as to find and interact with each other" (144-145).

This perspective is a bit ironic given how much they tried to create the "Facebook trance," where people would just keep clicking through Facebook. In fact, the photos app that added was designed just for this: just by clicking a picture, not by clicking "next," allowed users to fly through photos quickly and easily (154-155). However, it's clear Facebook was about relationships, as the photos showed. Unlike Myspace, where photos were about self-presentation, on Facebook they are about showing relationships (156).

Zuckerberg seems to have a bit of a utopian perspective on Facebook, wanting to create a platform that could be the entire Internet experience. Also, interestingly, there's a hope that Facebook could improve relations, that somehow getting more information about others "should create more empathy" (278) and that Facebook works as a gift economy (287-288).

Overall, this was an enjoyable and easy read.

Kirkpatrick, David. The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
618 reviews33 followers
August 25, 2010
With a title like "Facebook Effect" I was hoping for more on how Facebook is currently being used and perhaps case studies of how it has positively and negatively affected the lives of its users. Instead what I got was a sycophantic overview of the company history and development of Facebook. This would have been acceptable, but Kirkpatrick's narrative reads like a cross between a love letter and an article in People Magazine, complete with descriptions of what Zuckerberg wears. Constantly. I am not a teenage girl, and Zuckerberg does not have a particularly fascinating wardrobe, this does not belong in a non-fiction work about a business. Especially not every other page.

This is not a very well rounded history of the company either. It focuses mostly on Zuckerberg, even though others are mentioned. Since it's one of the most current books about the subject out there, I would still recommend it to someone who wanted to know more, but honestly I think there is probably a more even (and less repetitive) treatment of the subject on Wikipedia.

The reviewer is a 2009 graduate of Kent State University's Master of Library and Information Sciences program, an alumna of Antioch College, and the author of the blog A Librarian's Life in Books.
Profile Image for Monika.
139 reviews27 followers
January 19, 2022
Vertimas su krūva gramatinių klaidų, bet Facebook ir kitų interneto programų priešistorei sužinoti susiskaitė gana lengvai.
40 reviews1 follower
December 18, 2010
I read the Accidental Billionaire a few months ago and even though I thought it was almost a tabloid sort of book about the founding of Facebook, I was still completely captivated to learn how Facebook was started. I was so intriqued by the founding of Facebook that I wanted to learn more. Did Zuckerberg steal the Facebook idea from the Winklevoss twins? Did he swindle his friend Eduardo out of the company? How much is Facebook worth in real dollars? The Facebook Effect, written by a technology expert, touches on the events of the founding of Facebook, but does not dwell on the controversies that surrounded its beginnings. Mark Zuckerberg would not collaborate on the Accidental Billionaire, however, he did collaborate with the author of The Facebook Effect. David Kirkpatrick, the author, dwells on the relevance of Facebook and how it is affecting society, privacy, culture, and global communications. Mark Zuckerberg's founding of Facebook and his vision for the company is an extraordinary story and one that all can be inspired by. Anything is possible.
Profile Image for Adam Cormier.
208 reviews3 followers
January 9, 2020
Great book that chronicles Zuckerberg's creation of thefacebook and how he transformed it into what we know as Facebook today. How he partnered with key individuals and created one of, if not the, biggest Social Media platforms in existence today. Very interesting to see how Facebook has, and continues, to impact society. As someone who saw Facebook hit it's stride just after I finished University it has been interesting to watch it morph over the years. This book does an excellent job of tracking these changes and commenting on Facebook and Zuckerberg's impact on the social rules worldwide.
Profile Image for Thomas Edmund.
911 reviews56 followers
October 11, 2010
It's hard to comprehend an internet user who hasn't heard of Facebook, sure there are many out there who don't feel the need to use the application, and some who stubbornly resist signing up for various reasons (usually privacy fears or strange phobias of their friendships being somehow changed irreparably by the experience) but the chances are that if you've logged onto the World Wide Web you're familiar with the phenomenon known as Facebook.

In this work, Kirkpatrick takes us through a candid journey with Mark Zuckerberg, the brains behind the whole thing. It's a surprising journey in many ways, for one thing - compared to other `phenomenon' entrepreneurial tales, Facebook's is quite short, spanning barely more than half a decade. Despite this, there is more than enough material for a full non-fiction book, (and a feature length film.)

Most of the information for The Facebook Effect is straight from Zuckerberg himself, who like his creation, is open to sharing details of his personal and professional life with anyone who cares to see them. That is except for the specific details of a few lawsuits brought against Zuckerberg for theft of ideas - which unfortunately for us curious readers, were settled with confidentiality agreements meaning we'll likely never know the exact details of what went down behind closed doors.

The Facebook Effect, is really a story of delirious success, both financial and world changing. Even for those not so keen on geekery and computers, the political wrangling of the company supplies plenty of drama. For those heavily into Facebook, or at least who have been keeping up with the web app's changes over the past few years, you'll enjoy reading about the developments you've already experienced from the side of the developers - in particular I loved the irony when the `newsfeed' was added it allowed users easy access to groups they might want to join, which promptly lead to mass numbers joining anti-newsfeed groups.

Love it or leave it, Facebook has done what Zuckerberg intended it to - it has changed the way we conduct our social relationships - and thus changed society itself. Employees, employers and public figures are re-evaluating how they manage their very public profiles on Facebook, with some pundits predicting that rather than people tending towards circumspect and professional Facebook profiles, society will just come to accept that Facebook will reveal certain aspects of our lives that we don't necessarily want public, and not judge too harshly. Even if you don't have a profile yourself, there is no way you can prevent others from posting photos of you, or revealing personal information about yourself (although one might question why said acquaintance is doing so) so perhaps a society that doesn't judge our drunken photos too harshly is more preferable to trying desperately to keep such things from the internet.

My only real criticism of this book is it left me wishing that I had a college friend on the verge of creating a billion dollar company who just needed a small amount of investment to get started - and that I got to be one of those lucky fools who gave thousands only to have the investment return in the millions...
35 reviews6 followers
July 7, 2010
Somehow now seems like the perfect time for an all encompassing report on both the history and state of social networking behemoth Facebook. Having experienced what can only be described as torrid growth – closing in on a half-billion users – while still taking in private money prior to a much anticipated eventual IPO (2011?), Facebook is unquestionably the most important social utility to ever hit the web.

In the newly released, ‘The Facebook Effect,’ former Fortune magazine technology editor, David Kirkpatrick takes a deep dive into the innerworkings of what made college upstart The Facebook into the dominant new media player on the web today. All the famous stories – from the ‘borrowing’ (stealing?) of the original concept from ConnectU and houseSYSTEM, to the fever-pitched growth, through early stage investor meetings, the move from Harvard to Palo Alto, important hirings along the way (did you know Steve Chen worked at theFacebook for a few weeks before leaving to co-found YouTube?) to meetings and partnerships with Fortune 500 advertisers and media companies are well documented here. Even examples of competitive positioning (FB vs. myspace, Twitter, even Google) to recent acquisitions like FriendFeed are part of keeping the story timely and up to the moment.

From what appears to be full cooperation from most of the key players in the still young Facebook pantheon, including multiple interviews with Mark Zuckerberg himself, Kirkpatrick tells the story of a young, ambitious company that experiences nearly every kind of growing pain known to man, while still forging ahead on it’s stated purpose to ‘make society open’ while creating and maintaining the ’social graph.’ Along the way, plenty of issues (privacy, advertising vs. user experience) and iterations are revealed explaining why some features/apps worked well (Farmville exploded Facebook in Taiwan) and why others met a dismal fate (Beacon).

More than anything what emerges is Zuckerberg’s coming of age. When investors wanted more maturity infused into the company, the young leader reluctantly agreed. When he found a new girlfriend, he negotiated for 100 minutes of time a week. Within this fast-paced read, it appears nothing of significance was left behind.

What is most striking about the book is the even handed nature by which it is all delivered. Kirkpatrick paints a deft portrait of everything that makes Facebook what it is today. In this respect, ‘the Facebook Effect’, much like Ken Auletta’s excellent ‘Googled,’ is one of the best new media business books of the year.
Profile Image for Dane Cobain.
Author 29 books311 followers
January 5, 2016
The Facebook Effect claims to be “The Real Story Behind THE SOCIAL NETWORK”, and I believe it was even used as source material for the movie of the same name. It certainly does offer a great glimpse into Facebook’s early days, although things have moved along even further since the book’s publication and Facebook has morphed into a huge behemoth that the author could never have predicted.

That said, if you’re looking for the early years, the story of how Mark Zuckerberg created TheFacebook.com from his college dorm room and the subsequent adventures and investments that followed, then this book is definitely for you. Luckily, that was exactly what I was hoping for, and so I enjoyed this book immensely.

Part of that is probably down to the skill of the author, who’s a veteran of the tech journalism scene after spending many years as the senior editor for internet and technology at Fortune magazine. He’s earned his stripes already, and that’s what allowed him access to the inner workings of the company, including some of the people who you really need to hear from in a book like this, the ones who remember Mark from before he was a billionaire.

I work in social media marketing, and it’s always useful to know more about the social networks that you’re using even if it doesn’t directly affect your ability to use the platform. I like to know as much as I possibly can about what I’m doing, and Facebook is the biggest social network in the world – if you’re working in a similar job role, then it’s not a bad idea for you to give it a read, too.

Even for the average reader, it’s still pretty interesting to find out more, especially if you spend a lot of time on Facebook. Somehow, knowing a bit more about the company and its ethos seems to change the way in which you look at it. It’s easy to take things for granted, but when you consider the amount of time that the average person spends on Facebook, you start to realise you ought to know more.
Profile Image for David.
57 reviews4 followers
September 13, 2010
A lot of things about facebook are a mystery to me.

Not how to use the service or why it is so popular, but why the pages have so few ads on them; how were they able to scale so smoothly; why have they never listed publicly ?; how do they make money ?; why were they so ignorant of the privacy implications of what they did ?

Well this book went a long way to answering these questions.

The answer to these questions is Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg's driving force with facebook was to `grow the site'. He hates banner ads, he isn't particularly worried about making money, he has total and absolute control over every aspect of the company including 3 of the 5 seats on the board.

The desire to grow the site has driven the problems. They were willing to do almost anything to entice more users. This, I feel is the root of the claims of facebook being evil.

I didn't understand this important point until I read this book.

Intelligent debate about Facebook is hard to find out there. For such a heavyweight in the internet, it doesn't get talked about much. This book filled in a lot of the gaps for me.

So I felt quite satisfied after reading this book. My questions were answered by the central role that Mark Zuckerberg plays in facebook - it is HIS company.

If I had to critcize the book I would say that the author seems a little too fond of Zucks, a bit to quick to praise him or dismiss his faults. Almost sycophantic at times.

If you have a passing interest in facebook as a technology or as a phenomenon, then this book is for you.
Profile Image for Carrie.
233 reviews39 followers
March 20, 2011
Fascinating, and I enjoyed this book much more than The Social Network movie. I'd highly recommend it to anybody interested in new media. I've heard some criticize this book as being far too glowing, and I guess maybe Kirkpatrick did "go native" in a sense given the access he had - it is clear how much he admires Zuckerberg and Facebook. However, Kirkpatrick is a journalist and this book is very well-reported and offers a level of detail and insight into the founding of the company and its inner workings that I haven't seen anywhere else. It also offers tremendously interesting detail about what it's like to be an entrepreneur and into the general issues presented by social networking.

I know it's fashionable for people to hate Facebook even as they continue to use it, but I'm a big Zuckerberg fan. I think he has tremendous vision, even though he has stumbled at times. I do actually trust that he will do his best to "do the right thing" even though sometimes I think it's hard for ANY of us to know what that is.
1 review3 followers
July 23, 2011
I love reading books about internet companies. Books like Boo-Hoo about the erstwhile boo.com and The Google Story about Google and was looking forward to this book aout Faceook when I read about this for the first time in TechCrunch. The writer seems to glorify Mark Zuckerberg and seems be a huge facebook fan and so many things in this book are biased towards facebook and may not be the true story. However this book is a fascinating account about the growth of facebook from the dorms of Harvard. If you are interested in startups, or how marketing and advertising are evolving, or just how Facebook is changing the world, buy this book. It?s very readable and gives great insights into how Facebook grew from a dorm room to a huge company. There?s no other book out there that gives such a complete history of the company and of Mark Zuckerberg. This is a book that you should invest your money in If you like internet, startups or anything to do with new media and thanks to HomeShop18 for delivering the book within two days in very good bubble wrapped packaging.
Profile Image for Kshitij.
1 review
August 19, 2012
This book was exceptional. Telling us about how Facebook was formed in every detail. I mean look at it, i am logging on to goodreads from my facebook account.
David's style of writing is amazing. They way he has conveyed everything has been pleasing. This book has been quiet inspirational. Mark Zuckerberg is surely a true genius. This book is one of those books one should not miss to read. I mean who today is NOT on facebook. One can understand the story behind every small thing on facebook from this book. Just like a few weeks back i was talking to my friend telling her how i think facebook is not at all a waste of time, the news feed keeps me updated with THE WORLD as well my friends. You "like" News pages and they provide you with any news instantly. The groups, the games, the API and EVERYTHING is just great. It was good to know rather that what i felt about facebook was what Mark tried to convey to us, to provide us.He surely succeed because that's what everyone feels i guess.
Profile Image for Amar Pai.
960 reviews101 followers
November 22, 2010
Not the book "Social Network" was based on; that one (Accidental Billionaires) was written by the same guy who wrote "Bringing Down The House," the story of MIT students who beat Vegas at blackjack. Both of his books are dodgy affairs; he plays loose with facts and adds countless embellishments/fabrications for the sake of the story. The result is a hybrid of fiction and non-fiction.

"Facebook Effect" is a more traditional reportage-type book. It's way too "pro-Zuckerburg" to be considered objective though; at times it sounds like a press release. The author spent lots of time talking with Zuck, which is good in that at least he gets it straight from the horse's mouth; but the horse can be pretty self-serving at times.

There's a shiny mirror in the shape of your face on the cover of the book. Is this the facebook effect? Staring deeply into my own eyes? Hypnotic narcissism?

Now I wanna read Accidental Billionaires.
Profile Image for Brian.
644 reviews247 followers
March 17, 2011
If at all interested in the history of Facebook, do read this

I made the mistake of reading The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, which was a terrible book. This is far better researched (he actually spoke to Facebook employees, including Zuckerberg), more informative and even more entertaining (despite Mezrich's penchant for novelizing his topics). You'll really get a feel for how crazy, exciting, transformative Facebook was and is. The tail end of the book about where things are now and where they are going are far less revelatory and exciting, but the history of all major decisions Mark and crew have made are well treated and documented. You really get to see Zuckerberg and company's thinking at each step (and misstep) of the way, from decisions about fundraising to their release strategy to individual features released and retracted. Excellent.
Profile Image for Luke Muller.
Author 2 books1 follower
June 7, 2015
The thing that struck me the most about this book is it highlights how the greater transparency and speed of information sharing (brought about by online social networks) is causing monumental changes. Our lives are continually becoming more exposed and this has positive a negative consequences, but I think overall the Facebook Effect is positive.
May 25, 2019
Boy has this book aged badly.

Written by the editor of Fortune magazine long before facebook became the internet's (and perhaps even democracy's) vampire squid, the early part of the book reads like a puff-piece, with Kirkpatrick cheering on from the sidelines as facebook helped foment protests against the Columbian FARC. This is the future of democracy and popular movements, Kirkpatrick trumpets.

The first half of the book runs through what reads as a breathless hagiography to Mark Zukerberg and the book lionises him as a deep thinker and a visionary. David Kirpatrick giddily tells us how the Zukerberg built facebook while still in college, and "Zuck" comes across as a half ascetic/half polymath shaman figure. Zuck is always staring into the middle distance and telling everone how little he wants the money or staring unblinkingly at Kirkpatrick and telling him how open the world should be. Kirkpatrick also seems very enamored of Zukerberg's sartorial choices - letting us know at each key incident what Zukerberg was wearing - a loose t-shirt, NBA shorts, North Face hoodies etc. Incidents of parapsychotic behaviour, perhaps a harbinger of events to come, are glibly ignored as the hallmark of genius. Controversial incidents, the now famous lawsuits about intellectual property theft that marked the genesis of the company, are mentioned but quickly passed over.

Considerable time is also spent on the myth of facebook, and facebook's commitment to "radical transparency" that is "healthier for society". Transparency for everyone but themselves, evidently. The whole chapter on the "gift economy" is an exercise in self indulgent mumbo-jumbo.

For all its faults, the book does identify the key issues that have later blown up - Zukerberg's habit of pushing privacy concerns to a side and then apologising profusely, rolling out changes without proper thought and, most importantly, the overwhelmingly blind confidence in facebook themselves and their inability to introspect and see how their platform can be misused. However, in almost all instances Kirpatrick gives facebook a pass, convinced the company will figure a way out since he seems so enamored by Zukerberg and the myth of Zukerberg.

A naive book written in a naive time.
Profile Image for Ethan Gilsdorf.
13 reviews74 followers
July 29, 2010
Facebook world

Tracing the birth and mushrooming growth of the site and how it’s reshaping relationships and society

By Ethan Gilsdorf, Boston Globe Correspondent | July 11, 2010

Facebook has become, for many, home sweet home on the Web. It has nearly blasted MySpace and other social networking sites into obsolescence. When last checked, Facebook was, after Google, the world’s second most visited website.

But more than just market share, Facebook has captured mind share. It’s astounding how, in the mere six years since its founding in February 2004, Facebook has become enmeshed in our daily routines and has monopolized our time. Get up, make coffee, check Facebook. Time for bed, but not before updating your status one last time. More than half of its 400 million users browse the social-networking website each day. The average user now spends almost an hour per day there, scrolling news feeds, sending virtual gifts like flowers and cupcakes, and playing games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Every leisure hour we spend on Facebook is an hour we’re not doing what we used to do with our down time: reading a book, cooking a decent meal, going for a walk in the woods (or at least to the 7-Eleven), even watching TV or a movie.

As David Kirkpatrick writes in “The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World,’’ Facebook has led to “fundamentally new interpersonal and social effects.’’ That’s some understatement. Facebook has not only triggered semantic shifts like twisting the word “friend” into a verb and coining a new term, “unfriend.” It has also redefined what we mean by friendship. As Kirkpatrick smartly notes, when Facebook was first dreamt up in a Harvard dorm room, it was envisioned as a tool to complement relationships with real world pals, not create ones with people you’d never met in the flesh. Now it’s used as much for self-promotion and political activism — think of the Obama campaign’s mastery of the medium — as for networking and tracking down old flames. At last count I had 756 Facebook “friends,’’ and another 591 “fans’’ of my book. But how many of these friends or fans could I count on in a time of crisis? In cyberspace, no one can hear you cry (unless you’re Skyping).

“The Facebook Effect’’ is actually two books in one. One part is the exhaustively reported story of Facebook’s founding and meteoric rise to near ubiquity; the other is a thoughtful analysis of its impact. We first see Harvard roommates and fellow computer geeks Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes transform two early projects into Thefacebook.com. One was called Course Match, a program that encouraged students to enroll in classes based on who else had signed up; “[i:]f a cute girl sat next to you in Topology, you could look up next semester’s Differential Geometry course to see if she had enrolled in that as well.’’ The other was called Facemash, which took pairs of photos from Harvard’s online dorm facebooks and asked users to choose the “hotter’’ person. Both were essentially designed for hooking up, not Zuckerberg’s later and more lofty goal of making the world a more open place.

The narrative charts a nearly clichéd story of naive but idealistic college students renting a house in Palo Alto, Calif., and immersing themselves in Red Bull-fueled, all-night programming binges. They incorporate their little project, at this point still called Thefacebook.com (the “the” gets dropped in 2005). The site experiences staggering membership growth: 5 percent per month. Facebook expands from Harvard to include other colleges, then by the fall of 2006, the rest of the world. Word gets out. Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo begin to drool at the incredible value of a community so willing to divulge its personal information. Being a senior editor at Fortune magazine, Kirkpatrick revels in recounting backroom negotiations with these tech companies and venture capitalists, each falling over the other to woo Facebook.

While the Machiavellian wheelings and dealings of Silicon Valley heavyweights might bore some readers, the interpersonal dirt shouldn’t. Kirkpatrick received full cooperation from Zuckerberg and many key players who sat for multiple interviews. We hear about personnel ousters, and lawsuits claiming Zuckerberg stole ideas from other social networking sites.

While Kirkpatrick’s coziness with Facebook higher-ups could have impaired his ability to be critical, we are thankfully given the occasional unflattering portrait of Zuckerman. In one re-created scene, the new CEO is scolded by a colleague, “You’d better take CEO lessons, or this isn’t going to work out for you!’’

But far more interesting are the book’s efforts at social and behavioral commentary. Kirkpatrick raises the right questions, even if he doesn’t have all the answers. As the social network balloons — Zuckerberg recently predicted he’d reach 1 billion users — Kirkpatrick wonders whether the site might make us not more global, but more tribal; not more individualistic but more conformist and vulnerable to marketing. The decentralization of information, relying on friends not institutions for news, seems like a positive democratic step. But in a world where, as “The Facebook Effect’’ observes, “everyone can be an editor, a content creator, a producer, and a distributor,’’ what is “news’’? Who are the gatekeepers? Users have already grumbled several times about Facebook’s disclosure of personal information to third parties. As recently as May, Zuckerberg once again backpedaled for misusing user data, issuing more of an “oops” than an apology: “We just missed the mark,” he wrote. Facebook has since implemented clearer privacy settings.

If Facebook is warping our sense of privacy, at least it’s a community based on self-disclosure — you have to reveal the “real’’ you to be a member. Therefore, most online shenanigans like flaming, griefing, and other antisocial behaviors aren’t tolerated. Not that there isn’t some role-playing in all those clever status updates. Still, the question remains, does Facebook make it too easy to play the roles of voyeur, exhibitionist, and narcissist?

Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of “Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms.’’ Contact him at ethan@ethangilsdorf.com.

© Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Profile Image for Mourisham Jose.
67 reviews3 followers
March 29, 2018
Most people will equate success with money. More money meaning more success. But not for Mark Zuckerberg who clearly is a dude on a mission. A millionaire at the age of 20 and was offered USD15 billion four years later to sell his "baby" - Facebook, Mark (who now has a net worth of USD70 bil) delayed his gratification and instead laser focused to to empower individuals globally via social network. His uber long term approach, coupled with the help of outstanding individuals, namely investor Peter Thiel, self educated Sean Parker, Washington Post supremo Don Graham, Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, together shaped and helped Facebook became the fastest growing company and powerful media social colossus today. Not bad for a Harvard dropout who later became a visionary and technologist of this digital era.
Profile Image for Sweta Gorania.
323 reviews3 followers
August 16, 2022
The book is about the start of social media and Facebook. Informative as well as explain various effects of Facebook in a different arena. Average read.
Profile Image for Jennifer (JC-S).
2,871 reviews197 followers
January 13, 2011
‘Facebook makes it easier for people to organize themselves.’

Many of us use Facebook nearly every day, and some use it even more frequently. But how did this particular social network come to exist, and why is it now the most popular social network in the world?

Originally known as Thefacebook.com, it was launched on 4 February 2004 from Mark Zuckerberg’s dormitory room at Harvard. In the beginning, it was only available to those with Harvard eMail addresses. From such small beginnings, the site has grown to have around 500 million members today.

In part of this book, David Kirkpatrick tells the story of the development and growth of Facebook from 2004 to 2010. The second part of the book includes chapters focussed on the place (and impact) of Facebook: ‘Facebook and the World’; ‘Changing our Institutions’; ‘The Evolution of Facebook’; and ‘The Future’.

David Kirkpatrick spoke with a number of those involved with the early development of Facebook, including Mark Zuckerberg. This account of how a group of students were able to envisage and deliver the phenomenon that is now Facebook makes for fascinating reading. The development of Facebook is a curious blend of vision, commitment and self-belief coupled with the ability (mostly presented as Zuckerman’s) to access advice from dot.com veterans where required.

To illustrate the impact of Facebook, the book opens with an account of how Oscar Morales, a civil engineer from Barranquilla, Colombia, formed a Facebook group in 2008 protesting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. This Facebook activity quickly inspired massive, real-life protests against the leftist rebels. Yes, it’s a dramatic illustration of how, in just a few years, Facebook has impacted on people and institutions around the world, by providing another effective communication medium.

Kirkpatrick then returns to Zuckerberg in late 2003 when he was experimenting with a number of online projects. But it was The Facebook that really took off, spreading quickly through the Harvard student body. Then, Zuckerberg and co-founders Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin rolled The Facebook out to other schools. In 2006, the site was expanded to the non-school population.

The first part of the book provides a fascinating corporate history of Facebook, largely from the perspective of Mark Zuckerberg. The second part of the book is focussed on the impact of Facebook and raises some of the issues that need to be considered as the site continues to grow in coverage and popularity.

As Facebook itself is dynamic and continually evolving, its story will continue to unfold. There are a number of issues in the development and use of Facebook that all of us who participate in it should be mindful of. And, too, there is a sense that there are other versions of the Facebook story still to be told.

The book is not without its flaws but it is well worth reading for those who want to know more about the development and impact of one of the most popular internet sites in the world.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
Profile Image for Chris.
266 reviews21 followers
August 3, 2015
This book is for anyone who is interested in learning, first hand, what it took to get the company where it is today. As with most books on tech companies, by the time it gets to print, it is already out-dated, but for the most part, there is very useful information on all the steps it took to get where it is today.

The great thing about reading this book was that Mark Zuckerberg encouraged all the interviews in this book and was very open, when Sandberg wasn't around, on his thoughts and feelings about the company. I found that Sandberg to be a real problem throughout the story because the main concern she had was about making money and selling to businesses. Mark kept fighting her on this but to her it was all about making money and sustaining his "future goals," and to Mark to it was about helping people connect.

This is a great book for any serious entrepreneur who is interested in starting a tech company and has to deal with Venture Capitals later on to study. The author does a great job of explaining the irritating and conceited process that VCs put entrepreneurs through. The best part of all this was that Mark didn't care and wasn't interested in going through their usual process of investing. He simply knew that they wanted in and that if they agreed to his terms, then he would talk. Although the movie showed that in dramatic detail, almost no idea ever gives the maker that much power and control over VCs which is why this is such a rare and interesting story to read about. This book covers a lot of details about what it takes to go from a dorm-room project to full-fledged corporation and all the little things that investors and VCs want from you.

The best part of this book was just learning all the steps and who was involved to build Mark into the person that he is today. It was very surprising to learn just how corporate people are so quick to help out, lending you their private jet, paying for expensive wine even when your underage, when they have a chance to invest in your idea/company. It's no wonder that Mark is now compared with Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos because so many people helped provide the training for him after he made "TheFacebook."

This book does a great job in the end to show where Facebook is headed and how the issue of transparency will become more of a bigger issue as FB encourages more people to share more with people. It is also scary to know just all the directions that FB can go in, because it literally can overtake any government by holding more information about it's own citizens than they do. Facebook is said to become the new method for providing identity and it will be interesting to find out just when police officers will start asking for your drive's license, registration, and Facebook, since they already ask to see your Facebook acct at the beginning of any crime investigation.
Profile Image for Ana Rusness-petersen.
87 reviews1 follower
August 11, 2011
This is an amazing book in all ways! I can't praise it enough! It is a must read for all, including a history of Facebook as a concept and a company, an in-depth look at the technology industry including venture capitalists, and a detailed exploration about the developing role and potential power of social media and where it may lead us, as a globalized community, in the near future.

This book is well written by an insightful author who knows the technology industry and has a wise perspective through which to view the Facebook phenomenon, although he remains an objective observer/reporter/interpreter throughout the book. He walks readers through the creation and development of Facebook as a technology and a company. We get a better understanding of the people who were influential in making Facebook what it is today, including the infamous and idiosyncratic personalities of Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker, and how each major change or growth (such as the Wall, Newsfeed, and Beacon) within Facebook developed. I found it enlightening to see what Facebook started out as, how quickly features were added, and what the intent was behind activating each of these abilities, as well as how consumers reacted to these "upgrades."

Author David Kirkpatrick illuminates the guiding theories about the role of social media, communication, and interaction that motivate all of Mark Zuckerberg's actions. This, in my opinion, is one of the most valuable elements of the book: the exploration of the developing role of social media, and the boundaries of privacy vs. transparency that are constantly being pushed to the limit, as well as the empowerment of "the individual" through the related and mostly unsupressible opportunity for freedom of speech. Additionally, the unique and defining characteristic of Facebook among the social media fabric that demands one true identity of each of consumer - true legit and validated identities that don't change or let you filter depending on who you are interacting with. Zuckerberg's stand on this approach are fascinating!

Another highlight of "The Facebook Effect" is definitely the gained insight into the mind of Mark Zuckerberg; what his thought process is, what motivating theories guide his decision making, how he's developed as a CEO, who his mentors are, and how despite his youth projects a shy but very focused, ambitious, and wise leader and visionary who is uniquely not motivated by money or income, which is leading him to make some fascinating decisions.

The only way to fully appreciate all of the enlightening elements of this amazing book is to pick it up now, and let it engross you!
Profile Image for Blog on Books.
268 reviews97 followers
July 26, 2010
Somehow now seems like the perfect time for an all encompassing report on both the history and state of social networking behemoth Facebook. Having experienced what can only be described as torrid growth – closing in on a half-billion users – while still taking in private money prior to a much anticipated eventual IPO (2011?), Facebook is unquestionably the most important social utility to ever hit the web.

In the newly released, ‘The Facebook Effect,’ former Fortune magazine technology editor, David Kirkpatrick takes a deep dive into the innerworkings of what made college upstart TheFacebook into the dominant new media player on the web today. All the famous stories – from the ‘borrowing’ (stealing?) of the original concept from ConnectU and houseSYSTEM, to the fever-pitched growth, through early stage investor meetings, the move from Harvard to Palo Alto, important hirings along the way (did you know Steve Chen worked at theFacebook for a few weeks before leaving to co-found YouTube?) to meetings and partnerships with Fortune 500 advertisers and media companies are well documented here. Even examples of competitive positioning (FB vs. myspace, Twitter, even Google) to recent acquisitions like FriendFeed are part of keeping the story timely and up to the moment.

From what appears to be full cooperation from most of the key players in the still young Facebook pantheon, including multiple interviews with Mark Zuckerberg himself, Kirkpatrick tells the story of a young, ambitious company that experiences nearly every kind of growing pain known to man, while still forging ahead on it’s stated purpose to ‘make society open’ while creating and maintaining the ’social graph.’ Along the way, plenty of issues (privacy, advertising vs. user experience) and iterations are revealed explaining why some features/apps worked well (Farmville exploded Facebook in Taiwan) and why others met a dismal fate (uhh… Beacon).

More than anything what emerges is the story of young Zuckerberg’s coming of age. When investors wanted more maturity infused into the company, the young leader reluctantly agreed. When he found a new girlfriend, he negotiated for 100 minutes of time a week. Within this fast-paced read, it appears nothing of significance was left behind.

What is most striking about the book is the even handed nature by which it is all delivered. Kirkpatrick paints a deft portrait of everything that makes Facebook what it is today. In this respect, ‘the Facebook Effect’, much like Ken Auletta’s excellent ‘Googled,’ is one of the best new media business books of the year.
Profile Image for Samuel Atta-Amponsah.
133 reviews2 followers
August 12, 2020
According to “The Facebook Effect,” Facebook is the second-most-visited Web site on earth (after Google). The average member spends almost an hour there each day. It has more than 400 million active users — over 20 percent of everyone on the Internet — and is growing by 5 percent a month.

But according to David Kirkpatrick, who for many years was a technology editor at Fortune, Facebook is more than big. It’s a “platform for people to get more out of their lives,” a “technological powerhouse with unprecedented influence across modern life” and an “entirely new form of communication.”

No wonder he has written what amounts to two books about it: the first and second halves of “The Facebook Effect.” The first part is a fascinating but flawed corporate history, starring Facebook’s reticent creator, the Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg; the second is a thoughtful, evenhanded analysis of the Web site’s impact.

Zuckerberg created Thefacebook.com, as it was originally called, in early 2004, as an extracurricular project while he was at Harvard. Students, he knew, spent hours poring over the “facebooks” kept by each of the Harvard undergraduate houses, as well as the printed campus directory featuring the name and photograph of every freshman. When Harvard lagged in unifying these directories despite pressure from students, Zuckerberg posted his version online and allowed students to add new information of their own.

Thefacebook appealed to college students’ curiosity, social anxieties and hormones, and it was an instant hit. Over the next couple of years, Zuckerberg expanded the site to include other Ivy League colleges, then less elite colleges, then high schools and finally ordinary grown-ups.

Facebook became catnip for big tech companies — Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Viacom — and the book recounts the feeding frenzy as various executives fell over themselves trying to buy it, despite Zucker­berg’s steadfast refusal to sell. (Microsoft, for one, was finally permitted to buy 1.6 percent of Facebook for $240 million in 2007, which at the time put the value of the company, which had yet to make a profit, at $15 billion.) Kirkpatrick’s is a well-researched, nicely structured account of all the wheeling and dealing. But there are kinks in the storytelling.

Descriptions are repeated multiple times. The details of Zuckerberg’s standard wardrobe — T-shirt, jeans, fleece jacket, rubber Adidas sandals — appear in as many as five places. We’re introduced to other Web-based college social networks at least three times. “Poking,” a friendly Facebook gesture, is described twice. It’s bizarre — like being at a party where some guy tells the same joke over and over in the same conversation.

Kirkpatrick’s writing is low-key but also workmanlike, and punctuated by jarring grammatical constructions (“Everybody carried their stuff themselves”; “every Thefacebook user had their own public bulletin board”). Ouch.

This isn’t the first book about Facebook. One, the sensationalist “Accidental Billionaires” (subtitle: “A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal”), is already being made into a movie. But “The Facebook Effect” is the first to enjoy the participation of the blunt, elusive Mark Zuckerberg.

Credit...Illustration by Shannon May
Kirkpatrick makes a reasonable attempt to remain objective about his subject, noting (repeatedly) Zuckerberg’s taciturn stare and, of course, his slovenly dressing habits. Even so, there’s a good deal of hero worship going on. Zuckerberg is described as a “focused and visionary” leader with “a steely willingness to confront competition” who attracts girls with “his confidence, his humor and his irreverence.” His handwriting, we are told in several places, is “meticulous,” “extremely precise” and “beautiful.”

The author shows even less objectivity in reporting on the lawsuits that have troubled Facebook’s history. One was filed by three Harvard students — the twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (whose name is misspelled “Winkelvoss” throughout) and Divya Narendra — who created an early networking site with Zucker­berg’s help and then watched, aghast, as he withdrew and started his own. (The Winklevosses were “athletic blond über-WASPs” who “couldn’t be more different from the scrawny, nerdy, brainy Jews who founded Thefacebook,” Kirkpatrick observes.) Later, Zuckerberg shut out his handpicked business manager, Eduardo Saverin, who had helped finance the fledgling project and turn it into an actual company.

In a “Note on Reporting,” Kirkpatrick names 128 people he interviewed for this book. Surprisingly (or maybe not), neither Saverin nor the Winklevossesare on the list. Only the Zuckerberg side is told.

An even bigger problem is that Kirkpatrick can’t help inserting himself into the story: distractingly, self-aggrandizing, almost pathetically. “I was sitting with Zuckerberg in a modest French bistro,” he might say. Or, “I talked to Zuckerberg in his private retreat.” Or, “I sat alone with Zuckerberg for a long interview.” Or, “Zuckerberg even emerged from his shell to solicit advance attention from a journalist, me, whom he invited inside the company for an exclusive story.” Someone should have toned this stuff down.

Much is forgiven, though, as Kirkpatrick moves beyond the fill-in-the-blanks exercise of relating Facebook’s past and tackles its present and future. When a site becomes this big, this powerful, there are ramifications — personal, cultural, economic and political.

First, the privacy issue. Facebook’s entire purpose is to display personal information about you, so giving you control over it is absolutely essential. Yet Kirkpatrick clearly explains how Facebook has repeatedly made policy and programming gaffes that have exposed information that members thought was private.

He also skillfully tracks the rise of commercialism on Facebook; shrewd marketers can do incredible business on the site. And he handles Facebook’s international expansion adeptly, noting that not all cultures embrace Facebook’s American-­spirited transparency. “When a father in Saudi Arabia caught his daughter interacting with men on Facebook,” he writes in one disturbing account, “he killed her.”

Kirkpatrick is clearly excited about Facebook’s potential. It has become, like Twitter, a way for news to spread, for common goals to be shared, for political movements to take root. Barack Obama, after all, is said to owe his electoral victory in part to a shrewd use of Facebook.

It’s odd, though, that a book this carefully considered completely misses another possible Facebook effect: in an age in which one click establishes a new “friend,” young people may be losing the skills to build real friendships and negotiate real social encounters.

Not long from now, Facebook will be a frighteningly centralized database containing the information of about a half-billion people. Its advertisers already use this data (“You can show your ad only to married women aged 35 and up who live in northern Ohio,” Kirkpatrick notes), but apart from that, nobody can predict what the company will do with our information.

Despite its foibles, “The Facebook Effect” leaves you with a deep under­standing of Facebook, its philosophies and, most startlingly, its power. You come away with a creepy new awareness of how a directory of college students is fast becoming a directory of all humanity — one that’s in the hands of a somewhat strange 26-year-old wearing a T-shirt and rubber Adidas sandals.
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