Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

BoomTown Decodes the Zuckerberg Terms of Service My-Bad Memo (Now With 10 Percent More "So Very Sorrys!")

Under cover of darkness last night, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on the social-networking site’s blog that it would “return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.”

Oh, this is just too good to resist. Therefore, BoomTown shall not tarry in our ongoing job of busting the chops of the young Facebook leader, whose minions have actually–and I am not joking here–given him the nickname: The Wizard.

Well, the Wizard obviously had to pull back the curtain last night and show some serious mea culpa to the people, before they got out the pitchforks.

That’s due to the controversy Facebook has been embroiled in this week about changes it recently made to its Terms of Service that gave the company unusually sweeping rights over customers’ content and privacy.

While Zuckerberg had said in his first post about the issue that Facebook was not in the content-stealing business, the strong language in the ToS sent the usual suspects into a major meltdown over the possibility that the young geek had gone into full-scale evil mogul mode.

As if!

In fact, Zuckerberg has been ensconced in his Silicon Valley lair for years now, counting down until he knows precisely everything about everyone’s drunken college days!

Until D-Day then, here is my translation of his latest backtracking post:

What the Wizard wrote: Update on Terms

by Mark Zuckerberg

Today at 10:17 pm

Translation: OK, I have reached my limit of being yelled at by Sheryl and Elliot, have had my usual breakfast of Red Bull and Frosted Flakes–they’re grrreat!–and am ready to eat some major digital crow this morning.

I mean, night, which is my morning, because I actually slept through all this noise today about this whole Terms of Service “controversy.”

What the Wizard wrote: A couple of weeks ago, we revised our terms of use hoping to clarify some parts for our users. Over the past couple of days, we received a lot of questions and comments about the changes and what they mean for people and their information. Based on this feedback, we have decided to return to our previous terms of use while we resolve the issues that people have raised.

Translation: Did you know crow is delicious if you eat it with a little Bosco on top?

More to the point, I would just like to assure you that we have taken our lawyers–who idiotically rewrote our ToS to give us ownership rights to the Bible, “American Idol” and everything Bill O’Reilly utters–and sent them over to our friends at MySpace, because their owner, News Corp. (NWS), already owns two of those three [and also this site!].

What the Wizard wrote: Many of us at Facebook spent most of today discussing how best to move forward. One approach would have been to quickly amend the new terms with new language to clarify our positions further. Another approach was simply to revert to our old terms while we begin working on our next version. As we thought through this, we reached out to respected organizations to get their input.

Translation: As in: More yelling by Sheryl and Elliott and more Fedexing of lawyers to MySpace HQ in Beverly Hills.

But after we calmed down, we all decided the best course of action was to shoot ourselves in the right foot to stop the bleeding from when we shot our left foot before.

We are, of course, completely out of feet now, so if these hijinks continue, sooner or later, someone is going to lose an eye. By someone, I mean, um, me.

What the Wizard wrote: Going forward, we’ve decided to take a new approach towards developing our terms. We concluded that returning to our previous terms was the right thing for now. As I said yesterday, we think that a lot of the language in our terms is overly formal and protective so we don’t plan to leave it there for long.

Translation: Facebook, of course, never had any intention of stealing content and copyright! Perish the thought! After all, that’s the job of Google (GOOG)!

By contrast, ours is to collect incredibly embarrassing photos of everyone in the United States until one of them runs for president, and then our nefarious scheme to control the world begins.

We were planning on blackmailing the world for one billllliiiion dollars then, but Microsoft kind of forked over 15 times that without any pressure.

Still, we would like to own Palo Alto, Calif., and get free parking 24/7, so there will be demands!

Until then, enjoy the sheep-throwing. Mwaahahahahahahaha! (Quick visual: I am petting my white cat right now with Ernst Stavro Blofeld-like evil glee, and am, of course, cackling.)

What the Wizard wrote: More than 175 million people use Facebook. If it were a country, it would be the sixth most populated country in the world. Our terms aren’t just a document that protect our rights; it’s the governing document for how the service is used by everyone across the world. Given its importance, we need to make sure the terms reflect the principles and values of the people using the service.

Translation: Not to be completely and utterly arrogant or anything, but we just passed Pakistan, and those Brazilians better get ready to samba.

By the way, once we get to No. 1–look out, China!–we plan on decreeing that everyone in the world speak Pig Latin and that forthwith it will be flip-flop Fridays.

Also: Esyay, Iway amway anway alienway omfray anotherway anetplay.

What the Wizard wrote: Our next version will be a substantial revision from where we are now. It will reflect the principles I described yesterday around how people share and control their information, and it will be written clearly in language everyone can understand. Since this will be the governing document that we’ll all live by, Facebook users will have a lot of input in crafting these terms.

Translation: Ybay ethay ayway, “Otay Ervesay Anmay”? It’sway away ookbookcay.

In other words, I am sure you will make delicious contributions, after which Facebook will “invite” you to our world-wide HQ to share in a lovely meal.

Especially those Winklevii. I look forward to the twins coming by soon!

What the Wizard wrote: You have my commitment that we’ll do all of these things, but in order to do them right it will take a little bit of time. We expect to complete this in the next few weeks. In the meantime, we’ve changed the terms back to what existed before the February 4th change, which was what most people asked us for and was the recommendation of the outside experts we consulted.

Translation: To my credit, I did give in much quicker than with the Beacon ad snafu. And you thought I learned nothing during that debacle!

And, by outside experts, I mean Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer, who yells much, much louder than Sheryl or Elliot combined.

What the Wizard wrote: If you’d like to get involved in crafting our new terms, you can start posting your questions, comments and requests in the group we’ve created–Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. I’m looking forward to reading your input.

Translation: Here’s my first pass, based on the U.S. Bill of Rights, Amendment I:

Facebook shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition Faebook for a redress of grievances.*

*Exceptway, ithway ymay ompletecay iscretionday, enwhay Iway
ecideday otherwiseway.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work