Home' Technology Review : September October 2007 Contents 10 FROM THE EDITOR
TECHNOLOGY REVIEW /
From the Editor
Whom Should We Reward?
Innovations in technology and science have many
authors, although only a few are recognized
If you asked Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, the twin
brothers who cofounded ConnectU, whether Mark
Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, deser ved to be
one of this year s TR35, they d say no.
We named Zuckerberg (p. 65) one of 2007 s 35 leading
innovators under the age of 35 because Facebook is the best
of the social-networking websites, and social networking is
the fastest-growing phenomenon on the Internet. As of July
2007, 30 million people had registered with Facebook. An
older social network, MySpace, has more than 100 million
people registered, but Facebook is cooler. Its design (for
which Zuckerberg is responsible) is more elegant and func-
tional, and its features are more useful and more fun. To
the young and hip, Facebook appears to enjoy the future s
blessing, but MySpace already looks dated and ugly.
This perceived coolness has real value, or soon will.
Facebook is a private company, and its value is still
notional, but last year Zuckerberg was widely reported
to have declined an o er of $1 billion from Yahoo. When
Facebook enjoys its "liquidity event" (in the for m of either
acquisition or an initial public o ering of stock), Mark
Zuckerberg, who is 23, will be very rich.
But the Winklevoss brothers say that Facebook s
founder stole the idea of the site from them. In a suit
that dates back to 2004, the ConnectU founders accuse
Zuckerberg of lifting their source code and business plan.
In 2002, when the Winklevoss brothers and Divya
Narendra, another founder, were juniors at Harvard, they
conceived what they initially called the Har vard Connec-
tion, a social network for the college. In November 2003,
they asked Zuckerberg to develop the software, promising
to compensate him later if the site prospered. Zuckerberg
left the project in Febr uary 2004, a month after register-
ing the domain name thefacebook.com. By the end of
Febr uary, Zuckerberg s new site, also a social network for
the Harvard community, had registered half the college s
undergraduates. By April, the Facebook had expanded to
other Ivy League schools. Later, it began to serve more
universities, then high schools, then businesses, and even-
tually the broader public. By contrast, ConnectU never
really got started. It didn t launch until May 2004; over-
shadowed by what soon became simply Facebook, today it
boasts no more than 70,000 users.
Those bare but evocative facts are all that is undis-
puted in the case. The Winklevosses say their business
plan always described how the Har vard Connection would
grow beyond the college and become ConnectU---just as
Har vard s "the Facebook" became the world s Facebook.
For his part, Zuckerberg says he never imagined that his
unpaid arrangement was contractually binding.
The parties declined to be interviewed for this column.
But I have no doubt that both the Winklevoss brothers
and Zuckerberg are sincere in their expressions of out-
raged rectitude (although I am sure the twins grief could
be diminished by a large settlement). Both parties believe
they created the idea of a well-made social network, con-
structed to please the tastes of clever college kids.
But in every case where a new technology or scienti c
idea is emerging, there will be many people working on it,
and nearly as many claims to have originated it.
Some have argued, for example, that James Watson,
who discovered the structure of DNA with Francis Crick,
never properly acknowledged his inspiration for the idea
that that structure was a double helix. Famously, Maurice
Wilkins of King s College London showed Watson
research that belonged to Rosalind Franklin, a chemist
and crystallographer then working at King s, without her
knowledge or per mission. According to Watson, whose
account can be found in this month s essay (see "Letter to
a Young Scientist," p. 84), the x-ray photograph of DNA he
saw "displayed unequivocally the large cross-shaped dif-
fraction pattern to be expected from a helical molecule."
That information, in part, led to the Nobel Prize that
Watson shared with Crick and Wilkins in 1962.
In his essay, Watson discharges his debt to Franklin,
writing that "we would not have found the DNA struc-
ture without knowledge of x-ray results from King s." He
argues, however, that scienti c and technological innova-
tion occurs when competitive researchers and innovators,
all avid for success, confront a problem separately. Each
failure or advance contributes to the larger project. He s
right, but it is a melancholy fact that while many may help
develop a bright idea, our prizes, copyrights, patents, and
nancial markets recognize just a few.
Watson and Crick would not have discovered the
structure of DNA without Franklin. Without ConnectU,
Facebook almost certainly would not look as it does. In
hindsight, and after rancorous controversy, we have come
to better understand the contributions of Franklin and
others at King s. In the case of Facebook, will a lawsuit
clarify what is confused? Write and tell me what you think
at email@example.com. Jason Pontin
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