Infamous or just Out of Control, New Origin Story Details could Shed light on the Gargantuan Beast
Facebook has been one of the most important enterprises of the twenty-first century so far. With well over a billion users worldwide, few companies have received more coverage and attention than Mark Zuckerberg’s social network, which is only celebrating its sixteenth birthday this month.
Naturally, as the World Wide Web enters its thirties in the 2020s, tech writers and modern scholars in all fields are starting to reference Facebook as a contemporary relic and topic of interest. In the future, we will likely find entire library sections worth of books dedicated to Facebook and its impact on the planet. We have already seen a handful of texts as well as an Oscar nominated David Fincher movie (“The Social Network”) that flesh out the website’s story and societal intricacies.
On February 25th, however, we may finally get an initial, definitive book written about Facebook. Steven Levy’s “Facebook: The Inside Story” is part Zuckerberg biography, part corporate history, part digital humanities study, and part sociological analysis, focusing in intimate detail on the rise, development, impact, and complications that Facebook has undergone since its initial lowly launch out of a 2004 Harvard University dorm room.
Steven Levy is a lead editor at Wired.com and has also written for The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, and Esquire amongst other publications. He is one of the world’s foremost technology journalists, covering the latest of industrial achievements (and pitfalls) over the past couple decades. He has published seven books before “Facebook: The Inside Story,” including ones centering on the Macintosh computer and on the iPod. “Facebook” is his first book to focus on a singular website, though, and it is the amalgamation of over ten years worth of research, journalism, and reporting on the topic.
Levy’s relationship with Zuckerberg goes way back to 2006, when the entrepreneur was but a young university student trying to get his inter-collegiate social network site called “TheFacebook” up from the ground. As a devoted reporter, Levy has naturally met with Zuckerberg many times over the years and has religiously followed Facebook since its beginnings.
These years of relationships, interviews, and studious dedication have given Levy a keen insight into Facebook. In addition to unparalleled interpersonal access to Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg, the author also incorporates the experiences of other Facebook employees and users into his book, painting a holistic picture of the website from the inside and out.
Levy expertly chronicles the site’s somewhat tragic-hero trajectory, from Facebook’s nefarious beginnings to Zuckerberg’s infamous trial against the Winklevoss twins, from its “golden age” of uncontroversial influence in the early 2010s to its current hot-water situation following the 2016 election Cambridge Analytica scheme and the modern awareness regarding data rights.
Thoroughly Researched with an Attempt at a Definitive Take
Over five-hundred and ninety two pages, the book shares everything in a riveting narrative fashion, but Levy does not spare the reader some thoughtful analysis in the process. Today, we might associate Facebook (not to mention its extensive subsidiaries such as Instagram and Whatsapp) with contentious matters of privacy and ethicality, with grey legal areas and questionable security practices. Mark Zuckerberg’s name alone might evoke feelings of contempt, and one might immediately link him to his blundering appearance before Congress in 2019 or gross examples of an algorithmic dictatorship.
Levy does not shy away from these interpretations and complications surrounding Facebook, but he also reminds us that a time once existed when Zuckerberg was seen as an ingenious hero and Facebook was praised as a platform that could connect the world.
And connect the world it did… but now the consequences of doing so are coming to the foreground. Whether your deleting your account, boycotting the website, or fervently posting updates every hour of the day, Facebook has likely impacted you in someway or another over the past two decades. Thus, Levy’s book is not just an interesting read, but an important one—what is likely to be the first of many exhaustive books written about the network that tethered, shaped, and perhaps shrewdly deformed the modern social world.