When Hollywood set out to tell the story of how Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, it enjoyed the flexibility of portraying a man who, despite his social network's worldwide reach, was all but unknown to the public.
A year and half later, the movie “The Social Network” and the attention that followed have dispelled much of the mystery surrounding Zuckerberg, sketching out his story line. But as Facebook promotes the vision of its 28-year-old CEO as part of this week's first-ever sale of stock to the public, one of the most striking features of his persona is the contradiction between the public and private that remains at its center.
Zuckerberg avoids questions about himself and once sued a magazine for publishing documents revealing details from his past. Yet he is the architect of a revolutionary platform built on people freely disclosing information about themselves.
“Facebook was not originally created to be a company,” Zuckerberg wrote in a letter, included with a regulatory filing needed for the initial public offering. “It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.”
“It's all in one guy's hands, that's what makes it so interesting,” said David Kirkpatrick, author of “The Facebook Effect,” a book chronicling Zuckerberg's story that was written with the cooperation of the man and his company. “It is a one-man show.”
Kirkpatrick said Zuckerberg's true genius is understanding how, in a new age, people and computers can interact.