In his brilliantly reported new book, “The Facebook Effect“, David Kirkpatrick provides a detailed recount of Facebook’s growth since first launching six years ago. One particular story which stood out to us illustrates the Silicon Valley mentality combined with Mark Zuckerberg’s disdain for MySpace.
Moskovitz was more interested in user numbers than historical analogies. Ever vigilant about competitors, he was worried that MySpace had grown from about 6 million members in January to 24 million by now “How are they doing it?” Moskovitz asked one day. “Fuck MySpace,” Zuckerberg replied.
He had a chance to express a similar disparaging view in slightly more polite language directly to MySpace’s leaders shortly thereafter. Zuckerberg and Cohler flew down to Los Angeles, where they sat at a restaurant with Ross Levinshohn, head of Fox’s interactive group for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. He oversaw MySpace. Their competitor was being solicitous again. Levinsohn was cultivating Zuckerberg because he wanted to buy Facebook to add to his digital portfolio. But Zuckerberg was, as usual, just stringing him along. In her book Stealing MySpace, Julia Angwin recounts how Levinsohn seemed dubious Facebook could handle its rapid growth. Zuckerberg was dismissive, both of the comment and of Levinsohn’s business. “That’s the difference between a Los Angeles company and a Silicon Valley company,” he said. “We built this to last, and these guys [at MySpace] don’t have a clue.”
This perspective was something that would stay with Mark Zuckerberg throughout the years. MTV, for example, failed to acquire Facebook for similar reasons, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t want to be owned by a media company. More importantly, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t want Facebook to be owned by anybody else, although he almost conceded to Yahoo! at one point when he was offered over $1 billion in cash for the company.
As we know by now, Facebook eventually surpassed MySpace to become the largest social network (and is growing to become the largest internet property), however it wasn’t always clear that this is how things would pan out.