Facebook Fallout: Is it time for Zuckerberg to go?

For the record, I've never officially met Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. But I've met guys who are probably like him.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

For the record, I've never officially met Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook. But I've met guys who are probably like him. Young. Smart. Rich. Full of great ideas. And, yeah, probably a little bit full of himself, too.

There's a lot of speculation about what's really happening at Facebook's headquarters these days - especially since CFO Gideon Yu was pretty much booted out earlier this week for some cryptic we-need-a-CFO-with-public-company-experience line that no one seems to be buying.

The word in the blogosphere is that Zuckerberg has become a bit of a dictator at Facebook HQ, no longer receptive to dissenting opinions from the company's top brass. It's either Zuckerberg's way or the highway. But that's just gossip from unnamed sources being quoted in the blogosphere. Maybe it's true - but I'm certainly not sitting in on Facebook management meetings, so how would I know?

Clearly, Zuckerberg is a smart guy who managed - at such a young age - to build one of the most widely recognized Internet properties in the world. But does that make him qualified to run the company that Facebook is becoming?

Apparently not, according to the bold "Resign, Mark Zuckerberg, Resign" headline on a Gawker.com blog post this morning. Silicon Alley Insider, in a post that digs deeper into the apparent internal problems at Facebook, refers to Zuckerberg as another Steve Jobs - and not in a good way. Blogger Nicholas Carlson writes:

Mark Zuckerberg has begun "believing his own hype," a source says. He believes he is the genius the magazine covers say he is... Now that he thinks he's Steve Jobs, he's unbearable.

(Hey, didn't Jobs get booted from Apple the first time around?)

Regardless of what you read about Zuckerberg, internal meetings and departing executives, there's one thing that's indisputable: Facebook has botched - and been forced to back-pedal - on management decisions in recent months that really left the company facing negative publicity and user backlash.

  • The Terms of Service fiasco forced the company to scrap new legal language and resort back to the old language. To save face, the company opened the process of establishing new terms to the membership, soliciting input on future changes.
  • The redesign backlash was brutal. More than 1 million members voted (on a Facebook app, no less) and overwhelmingly gave the new look a thumbs-down. Eventually, Facebook (kind of) caved and agreed to tweak some of the changes to the design.
  • Discussion about the departure of key executives over the past year or so has resurfaced following the departure of Yu. And credibility for the company is fast flying out the window when the stories change. At first, the line was that the company needed a CFO with public company experience. But, once critics exposed that as a PR spin, an internal memo surfaced on the Boomtown Blog in which Zuckerberg says Yu wanted to spend more time with his family.

I've never taken a company from start-up to global sensation so I wouldn't know how to run a company like that either. But I have been around a bit longer than Zuckerberg and have learned a lot of valuable business lessons from more seasoned colleagues over the years. Sure, when you're in your mid-20s, you think you know it all and can do it all. But reality will slap you back into place pretty quick.

That seems to be happening to Zuckerberg a lot these days. If what they say about Mark and his rigid my-way-or-the-highway attitude is true, then maybe one of two things needs to happen: either Mark steps aside to allow a more experienced executive to run the show or Mark swallows some pride and starts listening to the people who are trying to offer him some solid advice.

Either way, turmoil at the top is not healthy for any company, let alone one that's controlled by fickle fans, threatened by up-and-coming competitors (Twitter) and still hasn't developed a solid plan for making money.

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