Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook
The success of Facebook as a social network is something that can't be argued with, whether you like the site or not, and whether you even use it. And it's founder, Mark Zuckerberg is an entrepreneurial figurehead, whose product is being used by 800 million people worldwide, over 30 million in the UK alone. After the high profile film The Social Network, we may feel like we understand the story of the origins of Facebook, but I was interested to watch the recent BBC Two documentary on Zuckerberg and Facebook to see if I'd learn anything new.
Newscaster Emily Maitlis fronts this The Money Programme production that heads to Silicon Valley and looks at both the origins of Facebook and its present status, on the cusp of possibly going the IPO route. In an hour, it has to cover all this ground and also fit in interviews and sound-bites with Facebook employees, Harvard professors, media specialists and Mark Zuckerberg himself. In fact, the programme advertised itself around Maitlis' interview with Zuckerberg, which ended up as quite a short one, and interspersed through the show.
First impressions, Zuckerberg seems a far more personable guy than The Social Network might suggest. However, the film is very much based on his early years, and he's undoubtably grown from his college years into an accomplished businessman. He's had to learn fast, and on the job. But the picture it paints of a non-flashy, intelligent, friendly, down-to-earth but extremely focused man in charge of one of the biggest tech companies in the world is an interesting one.
Of course, the hour-long documentary also has to set the scene for people who may not have seen the film, and who don't know all that much about the origins of Facebook. So there's the standard historical bit, the court case with the Winklevoss twins, Zuckerberg's room-mate choosing not to join Facebook, the progression from "thefacebook" to the brand we know now and how it spread through college networks before opening up to the world.
Things I learned:
- Harry Lewis, a Harvard Professor, has taught both Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg!
- Facebook head office has a free laundry service and a free restaurant
- A ton of new media companies, and even one-woman cottage industries revolve around Facebook and advising corporations on how to use it effectively
- Some people really do play Facebook games for hours each day
But to steer away from the wisecracks about the company, where the programme really lifted things was where it steered closest to its financial roots. The integration of advertising, market research, company-user interaction and how these revenue streams will play into any potential public offering of Facebook were all areas I'd thought about briefly. The show helped me shape my thoughts on the issues and it was particularly intriguing when Emily Maitlis actually silenced Elliot Schrage (Facebook's Public Policy person) purely by asking how someone clicking 'like' under a corporation or product was not the same as them granting permission for Facebook to sell them as advertising to that corporation as a 'sponsored story'.These were the moments that made the programme relevant - how the monetizing of Facebook affects the social aspects of the site, and how our information is being used.
The programme actually spoke to people who were probably just as interesting as Mark Zuckerberg and more likely to see more than just the success of Facebook. We heard from ad execs (like Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP), games designers (Playfish), tech reporters - Jessi Hempel of Fortune), and a number of Facebook employees from Chief Engineer (Andrew Bosworth), CEO (Sheryl Sandberg) and down to fairly new coders on the team who shared insights about queuing behind 'Zuck' in the dinner queue. But through all these interviews, a picture emerged of a desperately successful company that may not be doing everything right, but that is certainly leading the way for social media and how it's perceived. It's almost ironic that it was aired at the same time as Black Mirror - a satirical look at social media and how it's pervaded our lives.
Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook had plenty of points of interest and is certainly worth an hour of your time. But within an hour, and maintaining a balanced journalistic approach isn't as glamourous as watching The Social Network, nor can it really tackle all the issues in any great depth at all. In the end, it felt a bit woolly because it had so much to fit in. It's a start, though.
The show can be seen on BBC's iPlayer. You can also head to the BBC's TV Blog to read Producer Charles Miller's thoughts on meeting Zuckerberg.