Privacy issues, movie haunt Facebook in 2010
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It's no surprise that the biggest name in social media has been Facebook for several years running. But this was the year that the social network caused almost as much of a stir in D.C. and Hollywood as it did in Silicon Valley--where, arguably, 2010 was the first time that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg could truly claim a spot among the world's true tech elite.
2010 saw the release of "The Social Network," a cinematic treatise on Facebook's early days directed by David Fincher of "Fight Club" fame. Relying heavily on "The Accidental Billionaires," author Ben Mezrich's tell-all from the points of view of many people who have had legal fights with Facebook over the years, the film did not have many friends at the company itself. Official responses to the biopic were hostile until the rave reviews and Oscar predictions started rolling in, and Facebook seemed to shift gears and decide it couldn't fight "The Social Network" any longer. Zuckerberg still publicly denounces what he says are rampant factual inaccuracies in the film but proudly jokes about taking the entire company to go see it.
Starting in the late summer and progressing throughout the entirety of fall 2010, Facebook rolled out a rapid succession of product introductions and revamps--overhauled Groups, redesigned profiles, a slicker messaging service, and the long-awaited Facebook Places. The social network's first foray into geolocation, one of social media's hottest topics, Places allows Facebook members to "check in" with their locations and upon its launch instantly gave start-ups like Foursquare a new, 500 million-member competitor.
That highlighted an uneasy truth for the rest of the social-media industry. Facebook has grown so big and so powerful that seizing upon its network of connections can boost a start-up's chances of survival--while creating a dependence on Facebook that could curb unseen future opportunities. For one, 2010 saw rumors of discord between Facebook and Zynga, a game-development company that has risen to the top of Silicon Valley's pecking order based largely on its deft use of Facebook's platform and advertising system in promoting games like Mafia Wars and FarmVille. The two ultimately signed a partnership designed to reflect a "shared commitment" to the social Web.
Elsewhere in the social-media world, Twitter is growing fast and finally launched a real business model this year. Groupon revived a failed dotcom-era concept of "group buying" and soon became the hottest name in local commerce and small-business advertising, so much that Google reportedly considered paying more than $5 billion for it. The withering MySpace launched a well-calculated redesign that it hopes will be enough to fuel a second wind. Onetime powerhouse Digg looks like it too may be dying on the vine. And Google keeps
But one company dominated in 2010. This is Facebook's world and Facebook's era, an astonishing rise that hasn't been seen in Silicon Valley since Google itself.
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