David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World, offered his views regarding The Social Network as well as the future of Facebook during a lively discussion with Brian Morrissey, digital editor of Adweek, at Adweek’s Social Media Strategies conference in New York on Wednesday.
While The Social Network was not based on his book, Kirkpatrick summarized his reaction by saying, “I liked it as a movie, but not as history. Aaron Sorkin acknowledged that he invented some characters and situations for the movie.”
Kirkpatrick added, “Mark Zuckerberg is not as vindictive a person as he is portrayed in the film. It’s a shame that young people will see the greatest entrepreneur of this era, but along with those distortions.” Overall however, Kirkpatrick believes that the movie is good for Facebook, since “it turned Mark Zuckerberg into a global celebrity.”
As for Zuckerberg’s long-term suitability to lead Facebook, Kirkpatrick said he did not think he would ever step aside, but that “whoever leads Facebook needs to be a public person.” The author described Zuckerberg as “a geek coder program person who does not like to be out in public or to be a celebrity. But now with his recent donation to Newark’s schools, Zuckerberg realizes his more public role.”
Kirkpatrick outlined Facebook’s strategy as wanting to “extend their presence on the Internet and other platforms. The company wants to increase the number of users and to be the repository of identity information for its members.”
The author sees government regulation as the company’s biggest challenge. As Facebook gets closer to reaching its goal of everyone using the platform, Kirkpatrick foresees that the government will seek to regulate its vast amount of information.
Kirkpatrick said Zuckerberg is delaying an IPO, but it is inevitable because of competition from Google. In addition, Zuckerberg keeps adding new features because he’s acutely aware of the threat of startups. As Kirkpatrick said, “He can’t just sit there, he needs to be out in front.” Even after an IPO, which could occur around 2012, Kirkpatrick believes that Zuckerberg will still have “unilateral control over the company.”
The author also offered his perspective regarding why Facebook has been more successful that other social networks. He mainly credits Zuckerberg for not wanting Facebook to be cool, but wanting it to be more like a utility. Facebook’s primary competitive advantage is its solid technical infrastructure, unlike Friendster and MySpace.
For corporations that use Facebook, Kirkpatrick warned that they may end up in a situation where they become too dependent on it, and there is no guarantee that Facebook won’t make changes to the platform in the future.
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