Written by Ben Mezrich
“The Accidental Billionaires” is about the founding of Facebook. When you stop and actually think about what Facebook does, and how many people use it, it can get pretty overwhelming. But the thing is, I don’t think most of us do that. I know that before I read this book, I didn’t. Facebook was just another thing that I used, sure I used it everyday, but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t spend that much time on it. Maybe ten minutes a day when all is said and done. But I know that I’m in the minority in this scenario. A lot of people I know are on Facebook for hours a day. And hundreds of millions of people are using the thing. Do the math on that and it’s pretty damn astounding. Hell, once I’m finished what I’m writing here, wordpress takes this article and posts it on Facebook. Long story short, Facebook has become as much a part of everyone’s every day life as actual human communication.
The main reason that I read “The Accidental Billionaires” is because David Fincher is making a movie out of it. “The Social Network” (which is a far better title for this work in my opinion) will be coming out at the end of this year, and I figured I’d acquaint my self with the material so I’d have some idea of what to expect. The subtitle for the novel reads: A tale of sex, money, genius, and betrayal. Rest assured, this story certainly does include all of these things. (Though it is a little light on the sex, but considering Facebook was more or less created so that a couple of guys could get laid, sex is still a pretty strong undercurrent.) Despite how important Facebook has become to so many people, the program itself is kind of boring in its (intentional) simplicity. It’s sleek (though it use to be much sleeker before all of the crazy add ons that have popped up over the past couple years) but not crazy flashy. You wouldn’t think that there was much of a story to tell about its creation. But you’d be wrong. While no where near a Oedipal drama, the story of Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin is complicated and dramatic. Ben Mezrich does a fantastic job zoning in on the important parts of their partnership and taking a story that could have easily been much more boring and energizing it with his prose and sense of humor. If I had one criticism for the book it would be the same one that I have for most non-fictional stories… there isn’t much of a resolution. Despite spending a lot of the time inside the mind of the people who want to sue Mark for his creation, there isn’t any moment of catharsis. Eduardo is the individual you follow around for most of the book and I suppose the only moment of closure one can gleam from the text is in his realization that his friendship with Mark has been terminated.
I ended up enjoying this book much more than I thought I would. It’s quick, fun, and dramatic, and it offers up an interesting portrait of the new type of business tycoon that has been popping up in our world over the past two decades. Many of these men don’t see themselves as businessmen, they see themselves as artists. And they have a pretty good argument to make. I’m not sure Fincher’s film will be better than this, but I will say that he has his work cut out for him. Though if anyone can do it, it’s David Fincher.