As The Social Network hit box offices this past weekend, now grossing $23.0M, I went to see it. Handling our social outlets here at Junction Networks, and having been in college in 2004, I definitely have an interest in the history of Facebook. After, I was dying to know whether this movie was a true depiction on Mark Zuckerberg and the beginning of Facebook. Here are my findings and my humble opinion on the success of any web application.
The Social Network Isn’t All That Accurate… Well, at Least The Storyline
The movie paints a surprisingly vindictive and egotistic picture of Zuckerberg. In the movie, his motivations stem from anger over a break up and desire to gain power and popularity. While I can’t personally speak to Zuckerberg’s demeanor, both interviews and my friend who works at Facebook indicate he’s actually a nice guy – awkward, sure, but nice. And, by his actual life story and long time college girlfriend, these motivations appear completely false.
As for the lawsuits and further points in the movie, this article expands upon the truth, and, by Zuckerberg’s review of the book behind it, seems to be more accurate. In fact, rumor on the street is, according to NYTimes.com, Zuckerberg is unhappy with the falsities in the movie. So, that’s Hollywood. The writers and directors glamorized computer science students’ lives to a degree I didn’t think possible. Many people, including me, were probably left with the feeling that they, too, should have a computer science degree. They, too, should think of a revolutionary website to which people will flock. Oh the fame and fortune it would bring! But, this is reality.
The Social Network Creates Aspiring Billionaires
According to The Princeton Review, Computer Science is one of the top ten majors in the United States. This means there are hundreds of thousands of computer programmers out there. But, there’s only one Mark Zuckerberg. And, there’s only one Facebook. Now, this seems already to be leading to an unfair statement. There are many talented programmers out there, graduating with impressive degrees and accomplishments. There are also several other successful applications. But, my point isn’t that only Mark Zuckerberg can do it; rather, to do it, there’s a recipe for success with two vital ingredients: One is exceptional talent. The other is a product that’s useful. Facebook had these ingredients – tenfold.
The Truth About Successful Web Apps
In fact, I think these vital ingredients are the only glaring truths in the movie, The Social Network. With prior accomplishments (Synapse) and his creation of TheFacebook, no one argues Zuckerberg’s technical aptitude. The same goes for the developers he hired. As for the usefulness factor – the movie actually hints at it all along. Today, it’s easy to forget the basic utility Facebook provides because its many additions (…Farmville), has made Facebook into a form of mindless entertainment.
But, the bottom line is: Initially, TheFacebook was so useful for students to find information about peers, that it was instantly hard not to use. In the initial niche for college students, it bridged a social need, creating a directory of students and their information. Each time in the movie Zuckerberg has a "Eureka" moment, it's a realization of a feature that would be useful to students.
he exclusivity to schools only fueled the marketing fire at the time, making it “cool” to be on Facebook. Today, Facebook is useful to over 500 million active users (Source). If you’d like information about a person you’ve met, or you’re about to meet, chances are you’ll “Facebook them.“ The formula of talent + useful product is not a revolutionary idea. But, it’s one that can get lost easily in the hype and buzz.
Some good examples are the makings of useless apps you see pushed at you every day on Twitter and false Facebook accounts; they are backed by VC money and farmed to another country for a quick track to market. So, next time you're working on a web app, two good questions are: (1) Do I have the talent on my team to make a quality product? And (2) Is this thing actually useful? If the answer to both is yes, perhaps one day, a movie will be made about you.