06 June 2018

Rule Number One of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg is a lying bastard.

Rule number two of Facebook is: See Rule One.

Case in point, WhatsApp, where the founders have walked away from Facebook to a personal cost of over a billion dollars after determining that Mark Zuckerberg had lied to them about preserving user privacy:
The Wall Street Journal published a bombshell story on Tuesday about what reporters Kirsten Grind and Deepa Seetharaman call “the messy, expensive split between Facebook and WhatsApp’s founders.” The dishy piece makes for great reading. (Do the multibillionaire founders of global communications platforms make time to grouse at each other about who gets to pick out office chairs? Yes. Yes, they do.) Behind the dishiness, however, is a very important story that pretty much clears up any doubt as to whether Mark Zuckerberg is a trustworthy man who keeps his promises—or a profit-obsessed machine who’s much stronger on greed than he is on morals.

By the time you’ve finished the WSJ piece, only two options seem possible: Either Zuckerberg is a liar, or he’s a liar with absolutely no concept of the sunk-cost fallacy. ………

WhatsApp wasn’t an easy acquisition for Zuckerberg, because the two apps have very different founding principles. Koum, who grew up in Ukraine, believes deeply in privacy; Zuckerberg thinks that the more open and connected we are, the happier we all become. And so in order to acquire WhatsApp, Zuckerberg not only had to pay a lot of money and give up a board seat to Koum; he also had to make a lot of promises. Some of those promises were even enshrined in the acquisition agreement: If Facebook imposed “monetization initiatives” like advertising onto WhatsApp, its founders’ shares would vest immediately, and they could leave without suffering any kind of financial penalty.

Thus did WhatsApp retain exactly the independence that it had been promised—until it didn’t.

Today, it seems inevitable not only that advertising will make it onto WhatsApp, but also that the advertising in question will be targeted—which is to say that when you use the app, Facebook will know exactly who you are, where you live, and what kind of products you might be interested in buying. It’s a complete repudiation of WhatsApp’s founding principles, and makes a mockery of its end-to-end encryption.

What’s more, WhatsApp’s two founders both left hundreds of millions of dollars on the table, so keen were they to leave Facebook’s ad-friendly walls. (It turns out that their contractual right to being paid out in full would require them to sue for the money, and, according to the Journal, neither of them had the appetite for that.) Brian Acton resigned in September; Koum stayed on until the end of April. In leaving before November of this year, Acton gave up some $900 million; Koum gave up about $400 million. You need to be really unhappy at work if you’re willing to quit a job that’s effectively paying you some $60 million per month, and from which you basically can’t be fired. 


The only real question is: Did Zuckerberg know that he would break his promise as the words were coming out of his mouth, or was he talked into breaking his promise by Sandberg and other executives looking covetously at WhatsApp’s unmonetized user base? Either way, he has clearly failed a key leadership test. One more reason for him to go.
Felix Salmon, the author, is being far too charitable:  Mark Zuckerberg is a liar, and he has been since his Harvard days.

No other founder of a similarly successful tech company has been as frequently sued or as frequently accused of dishonest and deceptive business practices, and no CEO has been caught out in a lie, and had to apologize as frequently.

This is not something that was driven by, "Sandberg and other executives."

As the saying goes, a fish rots from the head.

As for his assertion that this is a reason for Facebook to dump him, the truth is that his lack of morals, when juxtaposed with is programmer bro affect, is actually his super power.


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