His “letter” wasn’t well received.
Carole Cadwalladr in The Guardian:
Because what Zuckerberg’s letter to the world shows is that he’s making a considered, personal attempt to answer… the wrong question. He is wrestling with the question of how Facebook can change the world. Whereas the question is: do we actually want Facebook to change the world? Do we want any corporation to have so much unchecked power?
One way of viewing it is to find Zuckerberg’s naïveté touching. Aw, shucks, what a sweet guy. But a more sceptical way of viewing it would be to read his epistle as a proposition for Facebook becoming the Internet. In other words: the world wide Internet has become a nasty, unsafe place. But we can make Facebook a warm cosy place. So why not give up on the public Internet and come inside where it’s safe?
Ben Thompson in Stratechery:
Anyone who has read Stratechery for any length of time knows I have great reservations about regulation; the benefits are easy to measure, but the opportunity costs are both invisible and often far greater. That, though, is why I am also concerned about Facebook’s dominance: there are significant opportunity costs to the social network’s dominance. Even then, my trepidation about any sort of intervention is vast, and that leads me back to Zuckerberg’s manifesto: it’s bad enough for Facebook to have so much power, but the very suggestion that Zuckerberg might utilize it for political ends raises the costs of inaction from not just opportunity costs to overt ones.
Moreover, my proposals are in line with Zuckerberg’s proclaimed goals: if the Facebook CEO truly wants to foster new kinds of communities, then he ought to unleash the force that can best build the tools those disparate communities might need. That, of course, is the market, and Facebook’s social graph is the key. That Zuckerberg believes Facebook can do it alone is evidence enough that for Zuckerberg, saving the world is at best a close second to saving Facebook; the last thing we need are unaccountable leaders who put their personal interests above those they purport to govern.
The manifesto contains one important admission from Zuckerberg (Facebook is vastly influential), but lacks a corresponding truth (that power is what makes people skeptical of Facebook). In fact, what Zuckerberg has done is provide an inadvertent argument for the decentralization of the internet — small groups and communities with the ability to access a larger global network when necessary. The idea of a global communication network is very popular already: It’s called the internet. The manifesto reads like Mark Zuckerberg has never encountered an email client or a LISTSERV. That network grew and thrived thanks to the proliferation of open standards, like email and web protocols. Facebook, conversely, is a technological black box whose breakthroughs exist to enrich itself, first and foremost. If Mark Zuckerberg truly cares about global communication, he might want to think about putting more of the company’s tremendous resources toward developing the types of open standards that can exist outside of Facebook.
Update: from the FT, Why be president when you could be pope?
Thompson finds Facebook’s centralisation and lack of accountability worrying. Adrienne LaFrance from The Atlantic says the social network will kill journalism as we know it.
Those concerns are appropriate. Indeed they might not be sounding the alarm bells loudly enough. Zuckerberg’s ambition seems to extend beyond making Facebook a central (and yes, unaccountable) venue for information exchange — or even making it an arbiter of truth, which is in itself an unnerving idea.
The post says outright that Zuckerberg wants to use his network to repair tears in the social fabric of the world.
Such a comprehensive push, one that disintegrates borders in the pursuit of social
conformityharmony, has traditionally been attempted by religions rather than governments or political movements. Even the attempted reach of Communism was limited in comparison. Why favour only the oppressed proletariat when, with Facebook in place of religion, you can recruit Labour and Capital alike?