Bill Gates lives inside of Facebook CEO
The second coming
And Ninthly I'm so very disappointed in all of you.
The classic line paraded in the mainstream press is that Microsoft has missed out on the Web 2.0 Experience. Google, MySpace, CredNodge and all the rest have beat the great giant - the last bastion of pure, honest capitalism.
Even worse, you're sure that Bill Gates has given up on technology, preferring to spend time with swollen-gutted children than with bits and bytes. Like gullible sheep, you've swallowed whole the yarn about Gates going into the shadows as a muted Chairman.
Not true. Not freaking true.
I'm actually quite certain that Microsoft and Gates find themselves at the center of the internet's next wave thanks to one of Redmond's ultra secret research and development initiatives - Project Pimple Popper.
You're no Bill Gates
Around about 1998 - and I'm pretty darn sure about this - Microsoft embarked on an effort to clone Gates. As usual, the cloning project took longer than expected and didn't pan out exactly as hoped. Rather than Bill Gates 2.0, Microsoft turned out the creature that would become Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
I mean, come on, nerdy super programmer, Harvard dropout, bad dresser . . . the facts are obvious.
Facebook, rather unceremoniously, revealed the ascension of the new BillG when it let Zuckerberg take part in an interview with 60 Minutes.
Facebook, we assume, decided to dangle Zuckerberg in front of the public as part of an ongoing effort to soften the Beacon disaster. The popular web site uncoiled a tracking system on its users, revealing information about your online purchases to friends and family. Many Facebook users saw the abrupt, sweeping arrival of Beacon as an assault on their privacy. Zuckerberg stood by the program for quite awhile before relenting to pressure and apologizing.
The apology, while appreciated, highlighted more of Zuckerberg's failings.
"About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web," Zuckerberg wrote. Adding later, "We were excited about Beacon because we believe a lot of information people want to share isn't on Facebook, and if we found the right balance, Beacon would give people an easy and controlled way to share more of that information with their friends."
Anyone with a few synapses still firing will see through the language about "helping" people to "share" information and see Beacon for what it really is: a flailing effort to make money off a classic dot-com style company.
We imagine that
Microsoft Facebook thought it could soften some of this harsh, corporate reality by parading its human face in front of 60 Minutes' aging viewers. You can see the image in the marketeers' minds - grandmothers everywhere remarking about that nice, young Zuckerberg boy who has the world by the toes.
Rather than warming any hearts, Zuckerberg horrified with his inability to grasp the issues people have with Beacon.
"I actually think that (Beacon) makes (Facebook) less commercial," Zuckerberg told 60 Minutes. "I mean what would you rather see - a banner ad from Bloomingdales or that one of your friends bought a scarf?"
Zuckerberg also remarked, "It might take some work for us to get this exactly right. This is something we think will be a really good thing."
A good thing for whom though? The people wanting to "share" with their friends or Facebook?
"There have to be ads either way because we have to make money."
Knife the Beacon
And here we have the Gates clone proof.
You all remember the Gates of the Microsoft anti-trust trial, swaying back and forth in his chair, appearing like the Oscar the Grouch of Bismarckian software delivery. You remember the Gates of many CES speeches, pounding the audience with boredom via Kermit the Frog's voice. You remember the unwashed kid horrifying all those around him with his unwashedness and general disregard for human niceties.
The Zuckerberg creation replicated almost all of Gates' least charming traits during the interview through his Beacon chatter and later, for example, when 60 Minutes asked the simple question, "Do you own any suits?".
"Zero. I don't think so," he said.
Zuckerberg then turned to an off-camera public relations person - who is apparently employed by Facebook's competitors - and asked, "Do I?". And, as it turns out, Zuckerberg does in fact own one suit.
We're all for the absent-minded engineer/computer scientist/programmer. The Register loves many of these folks. It is, however, sad to see some supposed, young brainiac claim that he can't remember whether or not he owns a suit. This has to be the work of a tremendous stoner or, as we all know, a new Gates formed in a petri dish.
We think it's time for Facebook to confess about Zuckerberg's true past. Such a move would go a long way to explaining his behavior and toward helping the public deal with his personality.
If Facebook fails to do this, they'll have to keep confronting the fact that Zuckerberg doesn't come off as the quirky, odd geek next door but rather a creepy, reality-abandoning homonculus.
So, please, just tell us the truth. ®
Otto Z. Stern is a director at The Institute of Technological Values - a think tank dedicated to a more moral digital age. He has closely monitored the IT industry's intersection with America's role as a world leader for 30 years. You can find Stern locked and loaded, corralling wounded iLemmings, talking, drinking and driving, reflecting on Anna Nicole Smith's American chest, fearing Intel Inside Chinese golf clubs, suppressing Bill Gates U, digesting head mash, developing strong Mexican engineers, fearing pink Yahoo!, corrupting his youth in Sadville, masticating beta culture, finding the new Bill Gates at Facebook, booing our soccer team, following Jimmy Wales, despising U-Haul, nursing an opal-plated prostate, spanking open source fly boys, Googling Bro-Magnon Man, wearing a smashing suit, watching Dead Man, dropping a SkyCar on the Googleplex, spitting on Frenchmen, and vomiting in fear with a life-sized cutout of Hilary Rosen at his solar-powered compound somewhere in the Great American Southwest.