Time Magazine ignited some controversy this month by naming Mark Zuckerberg their Person of the Year. Zuckerberg deserved the award, said Time, for “connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them, for creating a new system of exchanging information and for changing how we live our lives.”
Indeed, Zuckerberg did all that – but he arguably did so in 2003, when he invented Facebook in his Harvard dorm room. So why is he the person of the year seven years after actually making this contribution to humanity? Or did Time discover Facebook only weeks after their grandmother, as “Julian Assange” suggested?
There are actually two questions here, so there are naturally two answers. Question 1 is why Time gave Zuckerberg the award this year; and Question 2 is why 2010 is The Year of Facebook.
Culturally speaking, the last half of 2010 is a perfect storm of Facebook hype. The Social Network was a big hit and created some preliminary Oscar buzz. The next time you watch live TV, watch how many commercials end with URLs for a Facebook page. And Zuckerberg scored headlines with his pledge to donate half his fortune to charity and $100 million to Brick City, NJ. The success of social gaming in 2010 is linked directly to those games using Facebook as a platform for popularity – even non-gamers have seen their friends’ Farmville, Cityville, or Mafia Wars updates pop up in their own news feeds.
In short, Facebook is everywhere in a way it hasn’t been in years past. But why is 2010 REALLY the Year of Facebook? It turns out, there are some numbers to back it up.
Facebook’s traffic numbers surpassed Google’s in 2010. That indicates a huge difference in how people are consuming information – instead of searching the internet and relying on Google’s algorithms to tell them what’s important, they are relying more and more on friends (a point I made yesterday in a post on Pundit League). Trusting friends is something people are most likely predisposed to do; Facebook makes it easier to do that.
More important, Facebook continues to report increases in ad revenue. It’s one thing for a website to have a good and popular idea; it’s quite another for a website to make money. That Facebook has proved it could do the latter is no small feat and guarantees solvency for the foreseeable future.
So 2010 was more than just the year when America collectively noticed Facebook; it was the year when Facebook set down stakes as a permanent entity that gave legitimacy to its foothold in the public consciousness and culture.
And for that, Mark Zuckerberg really is the Person of This Year