Everyone knows Mark Zuckerberg seriously impacted the way we use the Internet by creating the world’s most robust social network.
But what would the Internet look like if Zuckerberg had never invented Facebook?
On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg received the first-ever Axel Springer Award for being an outstanding entrepreneur in Berlin (Axel Springer is Business Insider’s parent company).
Peter Thiel, a longtime friend and mentor of Zuckerberg’s, gave a speech that imagined what a Zuckerberg-less world would look like. It’s pretty grim.
Basically, the web would be a not-very-safe, not-very-fun, totally anonymous place. And it wouldn’t be baked into our social lives at all.
- Information would be at the center of the Internet, not people. “If you could go back to the first years of the new millennium in Silicon Valley, you would hear a lot more about ‘information’ than about people. ‘Organising the world’s information’ was the idea of the age,” Thiel told the audience. “While the implicit goal of computer science had been to build a machine that can do everything a human can do, Facebook has made software that only makes sense as a tool for humans. Its success in doing so has helped to gradually orient software developers away from the mania for replacing people.”
- The internet could have been a creepy place to meet strangers, rather than catch up with friends. “You can imagine an alternate history in which people don’t become comfortable using [the Internet] to meet their friends and family,” Thiel said. “It could have remained a wild and dangerous place – – maybe an exciting place to escape for a while, but maybe not part of your daily social life. Facebook has led a long and subtle but deeply important trend away from mob behaviour, away from the kind of nastiness that hides behind masks and rules in shadow.”
Thiel and Zuckerberg have known each other for a long time. Thiel was an angel investor in Facebook and later joined the board, helping Zuckerberg navigate tough decisions like whether or not to sell to Yahoo for $1 billion and how to fundraise right before the 2008 market crash.
Bill Gates, another friend and mentor to Zuckerberg, also spoke about him at the award ceremony via video. In his speech, Gates said his relationship with Zuckerberg is like his relationship with Warren Buffett. Although Buffett is about 25 years older than Gates and Zuckerberg is about 25 years younger, both energize him, particularly around their philanthropic efforts.
Disclosure: Axel Springer is Business Insider’s parent company.
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