Time magazine has named Mark Zuckerberg its Person of the Year, with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, the Tea Party, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the Chilean miners as runners up. In explaining the choice, Time managing editor Richard Stengel declares that Facebook's CEO
is both a product of his generation and an architect of it. The social-networking platform he invented is closing in on 600 million users ... It is the connective tissue for nearly a tenth of the planet. Facebook is now the third largest country on earth and surely has more information about its citizens than any government does. Zuckerberg, a Harvard dropout, is its T-shirt-wearing head of state.
Stengel also compares Zuckerberg to finalist Assange:
In a sense, Zuckerberg and Assange are two sides of the same coin. Both express a desire for openness and transparency. While Assange attacks big institutions and governments through involuntary transparency with the goal of disempowering them, Zuckerberg enables individuals to voluntarily share information with the idea of empowering them. Assange sees the world as filled with real and imagined enemies; Zuckerberg sees the world as filled with potential friends. Both have a certain disdain for privacy: in Assange's case because he feels it allows malevolence to flourish; in Zuckerberg's case because he sees it as a cultural anachronism, an impediment to a more efficient and open connection between people.
Zuckerberg is the second-youngest recipient of the honor (aviator Charles Lindbergh, Time's first Person of the Year, was the youngest) and will appear on the magazine's cover. He joins an illustrious club of winners that includes a host of presidents and foreign leaders and tech titans such as Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The Internet is abuzz:
- This Isn't A Surprising Pick, says Leena Rao at TechCrunch, "considering the huge year Facebook has seen in terms of massive user growth, controversy surrounding privacy issues, and the release of new products. And The Social Network’s success also contributed to the media frenzy surrounding the company and its founder."
- This Should Have Been Time's Person of Five Years Ago, claims Matt Welch at Reason: "When a news magazine lags the interest curve and production time even of Hollywood, the ... rigor mortis really has set in." Welch contends Time picked Zuckerberg because he was less controversial than Julian Assange:
Quite unlike Zuckerberg/Facebook, Assange and his WikiLeaks project are the Rorschach Test of our times, in which our self-revealing reactions correlate highly to where we stand on authority, American establishmentarianism, the U.S. role in the world, liberation technology, and sexual assault laws, for starters. Zuckerberg in 2010, on the other hand, was prominent mostly as a vessel for Aaron Sorkin's anxieties.
- What Real Impact Has Facebook Had? wonders Ed Morrissey at Hot Air:
It has spawned a Hollywood movie, which is probably why Time bothered to notice it after more than six years. It’s a popular meeting space, and it allows people to reconnect to old friends, as well as waste vast amounts of time with imaginary farms and wannabe virtual Mafia dons. Facebook is mostly a time suck. At least Twitter had an impact last year in the attempt by the Iranian people to rebel against the dictatorship in Tehran.
- And Some Thought The Social Network Would Hurt Him, notes Joe Windish at The Moderate Voice: "The 26-year-old man once derided as the 'toddler CEO' ... sits comfortably on top of the world. Or, at least, on top of Time’s read of the zeitgeist."
- Zuckerberg Has Learned to Charm the Media, argues David Kaplan at PaidContent, who mentions the Facebook CEO's recent appearance on 60 Minutes: "More than anything else, this latest round in the media cycle shows off how much more polished and media savvy the Facebook founder has become since his painful, squirming appearance at the D8 conference just this past summer (though favorable coverage can make anyone look good, of course)."
- Let's Hope The Attention Doesn't Go To His Head, says Mark Joyella at Mediaite: "He is, after all, a 26-year-old billionaire and the guy who has control over basically every picture you’ve posted online in the last three years."
This week's been good to Facebook, with the career site Glassdoor.com voting the social-networking company the best place to work.