Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Would That the Real Mark Zuckerberg Talked as Much as the Facebook Movie Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Pincus can sure talk a blue streak. Mark Cuban can easily be classified as a chatterbox, both online and off. And Marc Andreessen certainly knows how to keep up his end of the conversation.

In other words, the pantheon of famous digital entrepreneurs is full of blabby Marks.

But Mark Zuckerberg, not so much.

So, when watching “The Social Network”–the movie about the rocky origins of Facebook–a person who has known the co-founder and CEO of the social networking powerhouse even longer than BoomTown has leaned over and said, “The Mark in this movie has said more in 15 minutes than I have heard the real Mark say in the first few years I knew him.”

And how.

If you want to know, although critics are raving over it, it’s like a very talky, very geeky version of “The West Wing.”

The Mark Zuckerberg in the movie, as penned by master wordsmith Aaron Sorkin, is able to parry with top-notch lawyers and deliver perfectly crafted rejoinders one after the next to friend and foe alike.

He can conduct several conversation streams at once–so much so that a soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend remarks that talking to him was like “being on a StairMaster.”

I’d agree with that statement about the real Mark, except that the effort is quite the opposite of being dazzled by wild verbal gymnastics.

In fact, unlike a lot of Internet moguls, it has often been a struggle to get him to be fully articulate about the company, due mostly to a more taciturn, awkward and incredibly precise way of speaking.

When Zuckerberg famously asked Leslie Stahl of “60 Minutes” in a television interview–”Was that a question?”–right after she asked a question, I shuddered in recognition at the exchange.

In that way, he is a lot like the original leader of AOL (AOL), Steve Case, a person who created the first major social explosion online while also being incredibly shy and terse in real life.

Actor Jesse Eisenberg (pictured here) playing Zuckerberg in “The Social Network” certainly has the clipped delivery and often furrowed brow down–but the rest is a dude I certainly would love a chance to interview.

That said, he also plays Zuckerberg as a dour and wary person, also nothing like the real thing.

While I am in no way a personal friend of Zuckerberg’s, I have spent enough time with him to say that he strikes me as someone who generally tries to get along with people and makes a big effort to seem like a regular Joe, despite his fame and, well, billions of dollars worth of stock.

That does not mean he can’t be a bit robotic in tone or that he is not very much in charge at Facebook–indeed, one thing the movie does show is how very much the company is a creation of his single-minded devotion, restless innovation and intense forcefulness.

What I found perhaps most interesting about the movie was that it seems to, in fact, make the very case it is not trying to make.

Which is that, as the movie Zuckerberg says to the trio suing him for stealing the basic idea for Facebook: “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.”

Exactly. Because even if Zuckerberg did swipe the kernel of an idea about making a social network about friends from the Winklevoss twins at Harvard University–which seems obvious that he did indeed do– they were still incapable of creating what he created, even if they had gotten bigger head start.

Though hysterically played by actor Armie Hammer (pictured here, who does both of the Winklevii), these two seem more like rich kids with good chins, great bods and not much else.

So too Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s original partner in Facebook, who got left behind and then diluted out of his stake in the start-up.

While that move by Zuckerberg and his new investors was probably too cute by a half–and they had to pay up later for it–the movie makes clear that Saverin did almost nothing to make Facebook what it was, except write an early check.

In fact, in one scene, it’s clear he does not even know how to use it enough to change his relationship status. This, I believe.

(Also, incredibly, that Justin Timberlake–who plays the devilish Sean Parker–can actually act.)

Finally, there is the part about the impetus for Zuckerberg to make Facebook–which opens the movie–over a bad breakup with a girlfriend.

Again, it would be great for the origins of Facebook to be that interesting, but that trick is only there to provide a good ending shot of Zuckerberg hitting the refresh button.

And, of course, to lay out the big question of whether or not Zuckerberg is an “asshole” or not.

That’s from “The Social Network” and not me, which at the end twists that grand theme again.

Instead, it posits via a woman lawyer–the only truly positive portrayal of a woman in the entire film, by the way–to the Zuckerberg character that: “You are not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying so hard to be one.”

I am afraid that is not really true either, at least in my experience.

Sure, Zuckerberg has been diffident, has treated some friends shabbily (even recently) and has even been borderline disingenuous once or twice with me.

But that’s not that different from a lot of people I cover in tech and that does not make him that proverbial “asshole” of the movie.

Oh, I sure have known a few of those in my time covering Silicon Valley, but that’s a list I’ll keep for my movie.

Kidding. Sort of. (You know who you are.)


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald