Mark Zuckerberg Founder & CEO of Facebook,, April 6, 2011, by Dave Martin  —  The implications of Facebook’s recent announcement that it is now in the movie business have begun to take shape. You can now rent several of Warner Bros.’ biggest hits, including The Dark Knight, Inception, Yogi Bear, Life as We Know It or either of the first two Harry Potter movies for $3 or $4 or 30 or 40 Facebook credits. This is essentially the first time you’ve been able to buy something that costs money in real life using the social currency of Facebook.

This may or may not seem like a game-changer to you. Literally millions of consumers have been using the credits for about a year now to supplement their social game experiences. You can, in fact, put down your credit card and buy as many credits as you want for 10 cents each, with discounts when you buy large quantities. You can even buy Facebook credit gift cards at lots of retail stores. Facebook credits are virtual currency that can be spent on virtual goods (virtual farmland, outfits for your avatar, virtual food, treasure, new abilities, etc.) within apps and social games played on Facebook, like FrontierVille and Farmville. These credits cannot be sold to or given to other players, and until now they had no real monetary value.

The concept of virtual currency is itself anything but new. We’ve seen many companies like pop up and happily sell you gold in World of Warcraft or currency in 70 other massively multiplayer games. And for more than six years you’ve been able to buy real estate in Second Life (anyone remember Second Life?), if you just gave them your credit card number.

In fact, Linden Lab, the creator of Second Life, says the Second Life economy generated roughly $3.6 million in virtual sales in the month of September 2005, and as of September 2006 Second Life was reported to have an economy of more than $60 million. That was $60 million in real money being exchanged for a virtual currency called “Lindens” that players in the game used to dress up their avatars or buy and furnish their virtual homes.

But here is why we really need to pay attention. Unlike World of Warcraft, with 12 million players, or Second Life, with 20 million registered users at its peak, Facebook currently reaches more than 600 million people and is still growing. It is 50 times the size of World of Warcraft and 30 times the size of Second Life at their biggest.

Also, Facebook is its own reserve bank, meaning it has complete control over the value of its credits. It has arbitrarily decided to make them 10 cents each for now, but what will happen when demand for the credits goes way up, let’s say for a limited or exclusive product release, or Super Bowl tickets? What reason will Facebook have not to simply “print” more money? Or to split it like a stock? I’d like to have my hands on a few million credits when they split. Wouldn’t you? Especially if I can use them to make purchases on Amazon.

And although most consumers won’t likely jump at the chance to watch a movie on Facebook, they will certainly be willing to buy other goods and services there, just because it will be easier and possibly even cheaper (through volume discounts such as you find on Groupon or Living Social) than elsewhere.

What retailer wouldn’t want to move their online store to within one click of 600 million worldwide users?

And think about this: At present ads on Facebook are sold on an either cost-per-thousand or cost-per-click basis. Marketers buy the ads and then figure out their return on investment based on how many people click on them, “like” them (remember the value of a “like”) or take some other action (sign up for a contest, download, etc.). Imagine if instead of trying to guess at ROI, a retailer could literally get someone to buy something without having to leave Facebook? Closing the loop that way on ad effectiveness would in some ways make the Facebook ad marketplace as powerful as Google’s. It would be another big reason to put your online store on Facebook.

So now we have two reasons to put your store on Facebook: to make it easy for 600 million shoppers to find you and because you can tell exactly what your ads on Facebook are worth to you in real U.S. dollars. Or in Facebook credits. Or whichever is still around in 20 years.

Anyone want to start a Facebook Bank?

Note: The government will very likely step in long before Facebook credits become a ubiquitous form of currency. And there are many laws governing how any currency can be used to make purchases in the U.S. But you certainly want to pay attention any time a new currency is introduced to a population twice the size of the Unites States. Keep your eyes and ears open on this one.

Dave Martin is senior vice president for media of the marketing agency Ignited.

Mark Zuckerberg shares a rented home with his girlfriend Priscilla Chan, whom he met at Harvard University



Instead of a mansion worthy of a social networking supremo, he still rents a sparsely-furnished home in Palo Alto, California.

His study only holds three chairs, a table and two wooden shelving units. Cameras also panned across his open but relatively small kitchen containing an island and light-colored wooden cabinet.

The workaholic revealed he studies Chinese every morning at the kitchen table in preparation for a holiday to China he will take with Priscilla at the end of the year.

However, he is rarely at home putting in 16 hour days at Facebook headquarters.

The open plan office has a fun and creative feel. People can be seen riding skateboards, while walls are covered with inspirational phrases like ‘Fail Harder’ and ‘What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?’

At one stage Zuckerberg can be seen sat next to other staff sharing a messy desk as he types on a laptop.

Mr Zuckerberg was on Oprah’s show to announce a $100m grant to help reform schools in the U.S.


Mr Zuckerberg in the kitchen where he studies Chinese every morning



Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg lives in a modest rented house near his work



His announcement was met with some skepticism, coming on the day of the premiere of the unofficial film based on the creation of Facebook, The Social Network.

But Mr Zuckerberg played down any controversy – adding the film seemed ‘fun’.

He said: ‘A lot of it is fiction, but even the film-makers will say that.

‘They’re building a good story This is my life, I know it’s not that dramatic.

‘The last six years have been a lot of coding and focus and hard work. But maybe it will be fun to remember it as partying and all these crazy dramas.’

The Facebook founder joined Newark Mayor Cory Booker and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as they unveiled a “bold” new plan for Newark to serve as a model for the country.


Mr Zuckerberg is learning Chinese with a tutor for a holiday he plans to take to China with his girlfriend



Mark Zuckerberg (far right) poses with Oprah Winfrey, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left) and Mayor Cory Booker


And the Facebook CEO, who became the world’s youngest billionaire at age 23, received a standing ovation from Winfrey, the guests and the audience when he announced his support.

‘I’ve committed to starting the Start-up: Education foundation, whose first programme will be a $100m challenge grant,’ he said.

Asked why he was focusing on education, he said: ‘Because every child deserves a good education and right now that’s not happening.

‘I’ve had a lot of opportunities in my life and a lot of that comes from going to good schools. And I just wanted to do what I can to make sure everyone has those chances.’

President Barack Obama and Zuckerberg talk before a private meeting where Obama dined with technology business leaders in Woodside, California, February 17, 2011. (Also pictured, from left: Carol Bartz of Yahoo!, Art Levinson of Genentech, Steve Westly of The Westly Group, and Eric Schmidt of Google.)

Mark Elliot Zuckerberg (born May 14, 1984) is an American software developer and Internet entrepreneur. He is best known for creating the social networking site Facebook, of which he is chief executive and president. It was co-founded as a private company in 2004 by Zuckerberg and classmates Dustin Moskovitz, Eduardo Saverin, and Chris Hughes while they were students at Harvard University. In 2010, Zuckerberg was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, New York to Karen, a psychiatrist, and Edward, a dentist.  Mark and three sisters, Randi, Donna, and Arielle, were brought up in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Zuckerberg was raised Jewish, including having his bar mitzvah when he turned 13, although he has since described himself as an atheist.

At Ardsley High School he had excelled in the classics before in his junior year transferring to Phillips Exeter Academy, where Zuckerberg won prizes in science (math, astronomy and physics) and Classical studies (on his college application, Zuckerberg listed as non-English languages he could read and write: French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek) and was a fencing star and captain of the fencing team.  In college, he was known for reciting lines from epic poems such as The Iliad.

At a party put on by his fraternity during his sophomore year, Zuckerberg met Priscilla Chan, and they have dated continuously, except for a brief period, since 2003. In September 2010, Zuckerberg invited Chan, now a medical student, to move into his rented Palo Alto house. Zuckerberg studied Mandarin Chinese every day in preparation for the couples visit in China in December 2010. As of 2010 , Facebook is blocked by that country’s Internet firewall.


Zuckerberg (right) with Robert Scoble in 2008.


On Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, he listed his personal interests as “openness, making things that help people connect and share what’s important to them, revolutions, information flow, minimalism”.  Zuckerberg sees blue best because of red–green colorblindness; blue is also Facebook’s dominant color.

Zuckerberg began using computers and writing software as a child in middle school. His father taught him Atari BASIC Programming in the 1990s, and later hired software developer David Newman to tutor him privately. Newman calls him a “prodigy,” adding that it was “tough to stay ahead of him.” Zuckerberg also took a graduate course in the subject at Mercy College near his home while he was still in high school. He enjoyed developing computer programs, especially communication tools and games. In one such program, since his father’s dental practice was operated from their home, he built a software program he called “ZuckNet,” which allowed all the computers between the house and dental office to communicate by pinging each other. It is considered a “primitive” version of AOL‘s Instant Messenger, which came out the following year.

According to writer Jose Antonio Vargas, “some kids played computer games. Mark created them.”[ Zuckerberg himself recalls this period: “I had a bunch of friends who were artists. They’d come over, draw stuff, and I’d build a game out of it.” However, notes Vargas, Zuckerberg was not a typical “geek-klutz,” as he later became captain of his prep school fencing team and earned a classics diploma. Napster founder Sean Parker, a close friend, notes that Zuckerberg was “really into Greek odysseys and all that stuff,” recalling how he once quoted lines from the Latin epic poem Aeneid, by Virgil, during a Facebook product conference.

During Zuckerberg’s high school years, under the company name Intelligent Media Group, he built a music player called the Synapse Media Player that used artificial intelligence to learn the user’s listening habits, which was posted to Slashdot and received a rating of 3 out of 5 from PC Magazine. Microsoft and AOL tried to purchase Synapse and recruit Zuckerberg, but he chose instead to enroll at Harvard College in September 2002.

Harvard years

By the time he began classes at Harvard, he had already achieved a “reputation as a programming prodigy,” notes Vargas. He studied psychology and computer science and belonged to Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity. In his sophomore year, he wrote a program he called CourseMatch, which allowed users to make class selection decisions based on the choices of other students and also to help them form study groups. A short time later, he created a different program he initially called Facemash that let students select the best looking person from a choice of photos. According to Zuckerberg’s roommate at the time, Arie Hasit, “he built the site for fun.” Hasit explains:

We had books called Face Books, which included the names and pictures of everyone who lived in the student dorms. At first, he built a site and placed two pictures, or pictures of two males and two females. Visitors to the site had to choose who was “hotter” and according to the votes there would be a ranking.

The site went up over the weekend, but by Monday morning the college shut it down because its popularity had overwhelmed Harvard’s server and prevented students from accessing the web. In addition, many students complained that their photos were being used without permission. Zuckerberg apologized publicly, and the student paper ran articles stating that his site was “completely improper.”

At the time of Zuckerberg’s “fun” site, however, students had already been requesting that the university develop a web site that would include similar photos and contact details to be part of the college’s computer network. According to Hasit, “Mark heard these pleas and decided that if the university won’t do something about it, he will, and he would build a site that would be even better than what the university had planned.”


Zuckerberg at World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland (January 2009)

Founding and goals

Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dormitory room on February 4, 2004. An earlier inspiration for Facebook may have come from Phillips Exeter Academy, the prep school from which Zuckerberg graduated in 2002. It published its own student directory, “The Photo Address Book,” which students referred to as “The Facebook.” Such photo directories were an important part of the student social experience at many private schools. With them, students were able to list attributes such as their class years, their proximities to friends, and their telephone numbers.

Once at college, Zuckerberg’s Facebook started off as just a “Harvard thing” until Zuckerberg decided to spread it to other schools, enlisting the help of roommate Dustin Moskovitz. They first started it at Stanford, Dartmouth, Columbia, New York University, Cornell, Brown, and Yale, and then at other schools that had social contacts with Harvard.

Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto, California, with Moskovitz and some friends. They leased a small house that served as an office. Over the summer, Zuckerberg met Peter Thiel who invested in the company. They got their first office in mid-2004. According to Zuckerberg, the group planned to return to Harvard but eventually decided to remain in California.  They had already turned down offers by major corporations to buy out Facebook. In an interview in 2007, Zuckerberg explained his reasoning:

It’s not because of the amount of money. For me and my colleagues, the most important thing is that we create an open information flow for people. Having media corporations owned by conglomerates is just not an attractive idea to me.

He restated these same goals to Wired magazine in 2010: “The thing I really care about is the mission, making the world open.” ]Earlier, in April 2009, Zuckerberg sought the advice of former Netscape CFO Peter Currie about financing strategies for Facebook.

On July 21, 2010, Zuckerberg reported that the company reached the 500 million-user mark. When asked whether Facebook could earn more income from advertising as a result of its phenomenal growth, he explained:

I guess we could … If you look at how much of our page is taken up with ads compared to the average search query. The average for us is a little less than 10 percent of the pages and the average for search is about 20 percent taken up with ads … That’s the simplest thing we could do. But we aren’t like that. We make enough money. Right, I mean, we are keeping things running; we are growing at the rate we want to.

In 2010, Steven Levy, who authored the 1984 book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, wrote that Zuckerberg “clearly thinks of himself as a hacker.” Zuckerberg said that “it’s OK to break things” “to make them better.” Facebook instituted “hackathons” held every six to eight weeks where participants would have one night to conceive of and complete a project. The company provided music, food, and beer at the hackathons, and many Facebook staff members, including Zuckerberg, regularly attended. “The idea is that you can build something really good in a night”, Zuckerberg told Levy. “And that’s part of the personality of Facebook now … It’s definitely very core to my personality.”

Vanity Fair magazine named Zuckerberg number 1 on its 2010 list of the Top 100 “most influential people of the Information Age”. Zuckerberg ranked number 23 on the Vanity Fair 100 list in 2009. In 2010, Zuckerberg was chosen as number 16 in New Statesmans annual survey of the world’s 50 most influential figures.

Zuckerberg donated an undisclosed amount to Diaspora, an open-source personal web server that implements a distributed social networking service. He called it a “cool idea.”

Zuckerberg founded the Start-up: Education foundation. On September 22, 2010, it was reported that Zuckerberg had arranged to donate $100 million to Newark Public Schools, the public school system of Newark, New Jersey. Critics noted the timing of the donation as being close to the release of The Social Network, which painted a somewhat negative portrait of Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg responded to the criticism, saying, “The thing that I was most sensitive about with the movie timing was, I didn’t want the press about ‘The Social Network’ movie to get conflated with the Newark project. I was thinking about doing this anonymously just so that the two things could be kept separate.” Newark Mayor Cory A. Booker stated that he and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had to convince Zuckerberg’s team not to make the donation anonymously.

On December 9, 2010, Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and investor Warren Buffett signed a promise they called the “Giving Pledge“, in which they promised to donate to charity at least half of their wealth over the course of time, and invited others among the wealthy to donate 50% or more of their wealth to charity.