Think you might own a piece of Facebook? Better get your claim in now and beat the rush.
There are two big stories this week concerning the issue of who owns Facebook -- one sure to warm the hearts of Zuckerberg fans, the other not.
[ Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or tales from the trenches. Send your story to email@example.com. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]
First, the Winklevoss twins were dealt another, probably final, blow in their Quixotic campaign to wrest control of Facebook from their erstwhile Harvard classmate, Mark Zuckerberg. An appeals court has decided that a deal is a deal, regardless of what the parties find out after the ink is dry. As a result, the not-exactly-down-at-heels Cameron and Tyler, along with honorary Winklevii Divya Narendra, must settle for a paltry $165 million for the mistake of hiring the wrong Harvard geek to program their social network for them. Makes me tear up just thinking about it.
Did Zuckerberg steal their idea for a college-oriented network? Sure looks that way. Did Zucky conveniently forget to tell the Winklevii about Microsoft's strategic investment in his company at the time he was negotiating a settlement with the round-shouldered Olympians? Looks that way too. Does it ultimately matter? Not one bit.
Facebook is Facebook because of Zuckerberg and the other brainiacs he brought on board. ConnectU, or whatever the Winklevii ended up churning out, would not be the same animal -– and it's hard to imagine anything being more successful than Facebook has been. At best, it would be a forgotten footnote in the long history of obscure social networks.
Remember, it looked like Facebook might be headed down that road too, once upon a time. It only became a phenomenon after Zuck opened up the Facebook platform in 2007 to all of those annoying-yet-addictive apps. That turned Facebook from essentially an interactive yearbook (boring) to an online playground for adults. That's when the growth curve started to look like a rocket trajectory.
Before then, MySpace (or rather, My_____) was the big fish in the social media pond. Now it's a goldfish floating on its back, waiting for the clockwise swirl into oblivion. Maybe the Winklevii can use their Facebook settlement to buy it.
Meanwhile, another pretender to the Facebook throne has just re-emerged with new evidence to back his claims.