Don’t you love it when you find a book which grips you from the offset and which you can’t put down? I had to speak out for a book which many of you would have heard about as a cinematic phenomenon The Social Network, again adapted from remarkable book into a movie which has received critical acclaim.
The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich, who famously wrote Bringing Down the House, adapted into the fantastic movie 21 starring Kevin Spacey about a group of MIT students card counting and making some serious doe in Las Vegas, left me awestruck. The politics in the creation of one of the most recognised websites on the planet is one that has been shielded by its success and making Mark Zuckerberg undoubtedly the new king of Silicon Valley.
Told from the point of view of Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-creators of Facebook, and the former best friend of Zuckerberg, the story is one of a tragedy combined with competition. As we know in tragedies terrible things happen. This is your life Mezrich is writing about, after all. Because you know that while you should be getting that essay done or finishing off an assignment or preparing for a presentation, instead, you are eyeing your NewsFeed for updates from friends and contemplating a sassy Status Update and watching your Wall for signs of alliances. Face it: You are a Facebook junkie, and the accidental billionaires did this to you. Heaven knows you owe it to yourself to figure out how and why.
In principle, the story of Facebook’s growth since its founding six years ago is undoubtedly worth telling. It is one of the more remarkable tales of the digital era. Mr. Zuckerberg quickly realized that what he had started essentially as a girl-rating prank had vast potential as an online meeting place. He and a handful of other computer-science students at first developed Facebook as a Harvard-only network where students could post photos and information about themselves, link to one another’s pages, and form groups based on shared interests.
Facebook gradually expanded to include other colleges, then allowed high-school students to join as well. In 2006, two years after incorporating, the site was opened, at no cost, to anyone 13 years or older with a valid email address, and membership snowballed with astounding speed: Facebook now has more than 250 million members around the world. The privately owned company has been valued as high as $15 billion, but so far Mr. Zuckerberg has resisted overtures from would-be buyers, including Google and Microsoft. Like many Internet sensations, Facebook has still failed to pay off. In December, the company abandoned an employee stock-sale plan, and achieved it’s 500 millionth member in July of this year.
But status updates, and money making aside, there was a large unsuspected element to this book – that of secret societies. As such, Mezrich provides some insight into this fascinating underworld and discusses the other characters who belong to other such societies. Secret societies are more than a brief mention in this book – it is a theme that runs nearly throughout the entire story – highlighting the struggle of social and economic class within the American University setting.
Furthermore, the language of the book is intriguing and stirs the plot very well. Mezrich’s colloquial style coupled with his sophisticated language creates a gripping read. Although it is a narrative, and in places I am sure must be a work of fiction rather than evidential fact, the story is far too compelling, and entirely too personal, to not believe.
I really enjoyed reading this book, although I would be interested in seeing another book from Mark Zuckerberg’s point of view. Was he simply a socially awkward, workaholic or was he willing to sacrifice friends, classmates, and professional colleagues in order to propel his business to the top? Or was it simply a matter of others being jealous of his success? If the former is true, then our use of Facebook has been profited by a fraud who cunningly took an idea and made it his own, but if the latter is true we have seen the rise of a genius into the youngest billionaire on this planet today.