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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 20, 2010 @ 11:50 am

    The Social Network

    Ciara O'Brien

    So last night I saw The Social Network, the (dramatised) story of Facebook. I’m not sure what I was expecting. Mark Zuckerberg to be portrayed in a bad light, maybe, given the rumours surrounding the script. Backstabbing, betrayal – the tagline “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies” suggested something along those lines. And more than a few cringe moments, thanks to its classification as a “comedy drama”.

    What I actually got was a mix of all three, but nowhere near the scale I thought it would be.

    The first thing to remember is that the Social Network isn’t based on a script of Zuckerberg’s life, but rather on a book “The Accidental Billionaire”. And Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay, has publicly said his objective was storytelling, not a faithful reproduction of facts. So anything in the film you can take with a pinch of salt. That apparently includes the partying, the girls, the drinking… Then again, a film chronicling the hours spent coding and developing Facebook probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as entertaining. Frankly, I’d rather watch The Piano again, and that was boring enough the first time around, thanks.

    What did come across was that whatever way you look at it, Mark Zuckerberg is a genius. And no matter what you think of him Facebook might not be the success it is today if it wasn’t for Sean Parker’s input, despite his portrayal as somewhat of a scheming partyboy.  ( For another take on Parker, see Vanity Fair’s profile of him. Interesting reading. )

    The idea behind Facebook is a simple one, and not exactly new either, although it has added elements that other social networks overlooked. Love it or loathe it, Facebook is popular, and it doesn’t look like that’s changing anytime soon. It has not only overtaken its rivals – including MySpace and Bebo – it has blasted past them, leaving them far behind.

    Myspace had 66 million users in June 2010. Facebook currently has 500 million. MySpace became the most popular social networking site in the United States in June 2006. But in 2008, Facebook overtook MySpace internationally in terms of monthly unique visitors.

    Bebo, meanwhile, had 12.6 million unique users as of April. It was offloaded by AOL in June, after announcing earlier this year it would either sell or wind down the social networking site. It’s not know how much the sale raised, but it’s rumoured to be less than $10 million – a far cry from the $850 million AOL paid for it in 2008.

    In comparison, Facebook is currently valued at about $33 billion. Impressive? I’d says so.

    Whatever Mark Zuckerberg is doing, he’s obviously doing it right. Despite the outcry over privacy, people continue to use the website. Including myself.

    Every time that Facebook makes a change that means I have to go back and change privacy settings to make sure private photos and other information isn’t available to everyone who happens to do a search for someone of a similar name, I swear I’m done with it. Apart from the fact that Facebook is apparently harder to get out of than the Catholic Church, I can’t quite bring myself to delete my profile.

    Possibly because like most people, Facebook has become an extension of my social life – and deadlines depending, sometimes it’s my only social life. There are people out there who I would probably lose touch with altogether if it wasn’t for Facebook – not because I don’t like them, just because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

    There’s something a little bit sad about that, but I doubt I’m the only one.