17 December 2010

So Zuckerberg's Time Magazine's Person of the Year. Big Whoop.

In case you've been living under a rock, Time Magazine just named Mark Zuckerberg as 2010's person of the Year. So now the founder of Facebook joins such luminaries as 1935's Haile Selassie, 1938's Adolf Hitler, 1939's Josef Stalin, 1942's Josef Stalin, 1957's Nikita Khrushchev, 1965's Gen. William Westmoreland, 1971's Richard Nixon, 1979's Ayatollah Komeini, 1995's Newt Gingrich, 2000's George W. Bush, 2004's George W. Bush and 2007's Vladmir Putin. Time's Person of the Year roster goes back to 1927 and it reads as much like a rogue's gallery as it does a hall of superheroes.

Predictably, the chattering class of the blogosphere hailed Zuckerberg and Facebook as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, I don't think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Don't get me wrong, Facebook changed and is changing the way people use the internet. In a lot of ways, Facebook brought the social web to the masses. That's a huge achievement.

But Zuckerberg and Facebook are standing on some very broad shoulders and before too long, somebody else will come along to alter the fabric of the internet once again.

In 1979, my dad invented a modem. We had a computer at home and every once in a while, we'd call a telephone number in New Jersey. Once connected, we'd set the telephone receiver in the cradle of the modem and we'd log onto with something called The Source. The Source had weather updates and bulletin boards and was an early, early form of the civilian internet. We thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

A little while later, modems improved and got faster. By the early '80s, you didn't need to dial a telephone anymore and my first e-mail address came to me through a little something called CompuServe.

Everybody thought CompuServe was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

In 1993, I was trailblazing user of something called America Online. Back then, AOL didn't have a graphic interface, it was all text. In about 1994, AOL came out with a graphic interface and it was like nothing I'd ever seen.

By 1999, AOL owned the internet it seemed. You couldn't be cool in 1999 if you didn't have an e-mail address that ended in aol.com. Everybody thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

And now we're in the era of Facebook. Just like AOL though, Facebook is a walled garden, a dead end. It pulls people in and keeps them there, sequestered from the rest of the internet. It's Facebook's Achilles heel. And like AOL before it, something else will come along to take its place.

When that something arrives, everyone will think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.


  1. Good post! I think you are the best thing since sliced bread Paul and I don't want you to be replace by the next big thing!

  2. Thanks Sharon. I think I should have found "Sunrise Sunset" from Fiddler on the Roof and had it playing in the background of this post.

  3. Every time my husband comes home excited exclaiming that cattle prices are up or some other such nonsense I start singing, "What goes up must come down..." Most relationships need at least one realist right?

  4. Exactly. Somebody has to keep a lid on all the runaway emotion.

    Writing that post and finding that image of an AOL disk took me right back though. Remember getting those things in the mail every week?

  5. You know what's even better than sliced bread this year? UNsliced artisan bread in paper wrappers :-)

    Amazing how easy it is for us to lose all sense of history and perspective. The only thing a short memory has ever done for me is everyone forgetting about the extended time away in San Q.... oh, ummm... errr...never mind.. :-)

  6. I like sliced bread (toasted w/jam and a cup of hot tea).. nothing is better:-)

  7. Rufus: I'm with you only I'll do you one better. I like unsliced bread I made, especially when I wrap it in wax paper so that it stay fresh for an extra day. There's just something about wax paper.

    Raylee: I like sliced bread sometimes too, just don't get too attached to it.

  8. I"m loving the compuserve screen shot!

    My husband and I caught "you've got mail" on cable last night. It was fun to hear the old modem sounds. I remember how intense it was, the email conversations and the first chat. Now that the internet is so ordinary, I just don't see any tweets or facebook updates ever having that same power.

    Of course, being old enough to be happily married for more than 20 years, maybe for me the fun of texting someone I really know, and all there is to appreciate about him.

  9. It is funny how that announcement "You've got mail!" really did change our culture and now it's become so mundane no one really thinks about it. As much as I resent text messages to the kids raised on digital, it's something akin to that old thrill I'm sure.

  10. He did; a couple of them actually. They were in production for a while. They were called Lynx modems and his were some of the first available to the consumer market.


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