Meet the second-youngest individual ever to be named Time magazine’s Person of the Year: Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and co-founder of the omnipresent social-networking site Facebook.
“It’s something that is transforming the way we live our lives every day,” Rick Stengel, the magazine’s managing editor, said as he announced the magazine’s 2010 selection live on NBC’s ‘Today’ show earlier today. “It’s social engineering, changing the way we relate to each other.”
“He’s very affable, he’s in the moment, he’s quick-witted,” Stengel said, but “he has this thing when he gets on camera” and becomes suddenly shy.
Stengel said Zuckerberg stands out for accomplishing something that’s never been done before. “This year they passed 500 million users — one in 10 people on the planet.
“He’s our second-youngest Person of the Year,” Stengel added; only Charles Lindbergh, named the magazine’s very first Man of the Year back in 1927 when he was only 25, was younger. “He’s deeply affected by it.”
Zuckerberg created the hugely popular and influential social networking site, which reflects a major transformation in the way people communicate and do business.
“Facebook started out as a lark, but it has changed the way human beings relate to each other. And Mark Zuckerberg is the man who brought us here,” TIME says on the magazine’s website.
TIME’s editor, in their letter explaining “Why We Chose Him” wrote the following:
“At 26, Zuckerberg is a year older than our first Person of the Year, Charles Lindbergh — another young man who used technology to bridge continents. He is the same age as Queen Elizabeth when she was Person of the Year, for 1952. But unlike the Queen, he did not inherit an empire; he created one …”
For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them (something that has never been done before); for creating a new system of exchanging information that has become both indispensable and sometimes a little scary; and finally, for changing how we all live our lives in ways that are innovative and even optimistic, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is TIME’s 2010 Person of the Year.”
Almost seven years ago, in February 2004, when Zuckerberg was a 19-year-old sophomore at Harvard, he started a Web service from his dorm. It was called Thefacebook.com, and it was billed as “an online directory that connects people through social networks at colleges.”
This year, Facebook — now minus the the — added its 550 millionth member. One out of every dozen people on the planet has a Facebook account. They speak 75 languages and collectively lavish more than 700 billion minutes on Facebook every month.
Last month the site accounted for 1 out of 4 American page views. Its membership is currently growing at a rate of about 700,000 people a day.
What just happened? In less than seven years, Zuckerberg wired together a twelfth of humanity into a single network, thereby creating a social entity almost twice as large as the U.S. If Facebook were a country it would be the third largest, behind only China and India. It started out as a lark, a diversion, but it has turned into something real, something that has changed the way human beings relate to one another on a species-wide scale. We are now running our social lives through a for-profit network that, on paper at least, has made Zuckerberg a billionaire six times over.
Facebook has merged with the social fabric of American life, and not just American but human life: nearly half of all Americans have a Facebook account, but 70% of Facebook users live outside the U.S. It’s a permanent fact of our global social reality. We have entered the Facebook age, and Mark Zuckerberg is the man who brought us here.
Zuckerberg is part of the last generation of human beings who will remember life before the Internet, though only just. He was born in 1984 and grew up in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., the son of a dentist — Painless Dr. Z’s slogan was, and is, “We cater to cowards.”
Mark has three sisters, the eldest of whom, Randi, is now Facebook’s head of consumer marketing and social-good initiatives. It was a supportive household that produced confident children.
The young Mark was “strong-willed and relentless,” according to his father Ed. “For some kids, their questions could be answered with a simple yes or no,” he says. “For Mark, if he asked for something, yes by itself would work, but no required much more. If you were going to say no to him, you had better be prepared with a strong argument backed by facts, experiences, logic, reasons. We envisioned him becoming a lawyer one day, with a near 100% success rate of convincing juries.”
A lot of people feel as though they already know the 26-year-old Zuckerberg, thanks to the acclaimed movie “The Social Network,” which portrays Zuckerberg as socially stunted, calculating and arrogant. But Stengel told TODAY’s Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira that there’s more to the multibillionaire CEO.
In his in-depth profile of Facebook’s co-founder, Time’s Lev Grossman writes that “Zuckerberg is a warm presence, not a cold one. He has a quick smile and doesn’t shy away from eye contact. He thinks fast and talks fast, but he wants you to keep up. He exudes not anger or social anxiety but a weird calm. When you talk to his co-workers, they’re so adamant in their avowals of affection for him and their insistence that you not misconstrue his oddness that you get the impression it’s not just because they want to keep their jobs. People really like him.”
The majority of the photos used in this blog post are courtesy of TIME magazine. You can view more photos at TIME magazine’s website.