Time magazine clicked “Like” on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, naming him its 2010 Person of the Year. Previous tech luminaries to make that list include Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, former Intel CEO Andy Grove, and Microsoft magnate Bill Gates, who shared the honor with his wife Melinda and U2 singer Bono.
“Facebook has merged with the social fabric of American life, and not just American but human life: nearly half of all Americans have a Facebook account, but 70 percent of Facebook users live outside the U.S.,” reads Time’s Dec. 15 article. “We have entered the Facebook age, and Mark Zuckerberg is the man who brought us here.”
The article also describes Zuckerberg as possessing “weapons-grade mental hardware” and self-control “so total that he drives an Acura when he could afford a Bentley.” The 26-year-old Facebook CEO is also the second-youngest Person of the Year, following Charles Lindbergh in 1927.
Even before Time’s announcement, Zuckerberg was well on his way to becoming a cultural icon of sorts. Earlier this year, David Fincher’s film “The Social Network” portrayed him as a Machiavellian figure, backstabbing friends on his way to making Facebook an Internet powerhouse. Written by Aaron Sorkin of “West Wing” fame, who apparently based much of the script on Ben Mezrich’s book, The Accidental Billionaires, the film was vigorously derided as fiction by Zuckerberg and his company spokespeople.
Days before the film’s release, Zuckerberg donated $100 million to help improve public schools in Newark, N.J. Some critics claimed the gift was timed to blunt any bad publicity from his portrayal onscreen.
Facebook has grown more than 60 percent in the past year, according to research firm Hitwise, and now boasts more than 550 million users. U.S. Web users spent 41.1 million minutes on Facebook in August, according to comScore, versus 39.8 million minutes on all of Google’s various Websites. Facebook’s “Like” button, along with Facebook Connect, have helped extend the Website’s reach beyond its walled garden.
Facebook’s rise as the world’s premier social network, though, has come with periodic privacy and security concerns. User uproar over the company’s privacy policies led to calls for a Federal Trade Commission investigation, which in turn compelled Facebook to introduce another layer of privacy controls in October. Its Application Settings dashboard now allows users to view which applications have access to their personal data.