The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook

Ben Mezrich's book is the literary equivalent of Mountain Dew: lots of caffeine and sugar but not a lot else. Still, nothing really tastes quite as good on a hot summer’s day as an ice cold Mountain Dew.

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook -- A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Length: 272 pages
Author: Ben Mezrich
Price: $15.95
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication date: 2010-05

Facebook is really a virtual country -- and not a small one, either. Over 400 million people worldwide have a Facebook page, and Facebook fanatics spend (or perhaps waste) 500 billion minutes per month on Facebook. Well, who wouldn’t want to spend time on Facebook? People can connect with friends, relatives, and friends of friends. People can “like” their favorite businesses or causes and get updates from blogs, magazines, and news outlets. People can play Farmville and Yoville, take quizzes, or join groups like “I Bet We Can Get One Million Sunderland Fans Before Newcastle”. What’s not to love?

Yet did you ever wonder how all this social media fun got started? There are definitely some curiosities surrounding its creation. For example, why did someone think Thefacebook was a better name than Facebook? How did Facebook go from primarily being a tool for college kids to meet other college kids to a hotspot for 50-something women to play Farmville? How could Facebook start as a “little dorm-room production” and then, in only three years, grow to have over 150 million dollars in annual revenue? These are good questions, and it’s no wonder that someone chose to write a book about the founding of Facebook.

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook -- A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich tells one possible way Facebook may have come into being. Mezrich used multiple secondary sources and also states “this book could not have been written without the generous, if sometimes reluctant, help of my numerous inside sources; though these sources have asked to remain anonymous, I have done my best to honor their cooperation by telling this story as honestly and respectfully as possible.”

However, Mark Zuckerberg, the driving force behind Facebook, did not participate in this book, and rarely is Zuckerberg presented sympathetically. In the beginning of the book, his character is introduced as “painfully awkward”. In the middle of the story, Zuckerberg creates a website called Facemash that lets male students rate the physical appearance, or “hotness”, of female students and then doesn’t understand why people get upset. By the end, at least according to Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg has “screwed” over basically everyone in the book.

Of course Eduardo Saverin, Facebook’s co-founder, was interviewed by Mezrich, and he doesn’t always seem like that great of a guy, either. We are introduced to Saverin at a fraternity party, where he is explaining his “dating” philosophy: “It’s not that guys like me are generally attracted to Asian girls,” he explains. “It’s that Asian girls are generally attracted to guys like me. And if I’m trying to optimize my chances of scoring with the hottest girl possible, I’ve got to stock my pond with the type of girls who are the most likely to be interested.” That's right, for most of the book, Saverin’s primary concern seems to be “getting laid”.

So unless you just like somewhat selfish or immature people, most likely you aren’t going to fall in love with any of the main characters in this book. It’s possible the prose isn’t going to sweep you away, either. There’s nothing wrong with it, really. The book is very clearly written, and the pace of the story is brisk; occasionally there is even an interesting description. Often, though, the writing is a little clichéd with phrases like “I shit you not”, “he stuck out like a sore thumb”, and “Mark... looked like a terrified animal caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck”.

To recap, then, Accidental Billionaires might not be completely accurate. Even Mezrich admits “There are a number of different -- and often contentious -- opinions about some of the events that took place. Trying to paint a scene from the memories of dozens of sources -- some direct witnesses, some indirect -- can often lead to discrepancies.” This is particularly true if Saverin, one of the primary sources, drank even half as much as the book indicated he did. Additionally (continuing to recap), the characters aren’t particularly likable nor is the book that cleverly written.

So why couldn’t I put it down?

This book is the literary equivalent of Mountain Dew. Lots of caffeine and sugar but not a lot else. Still, nothing really tastes quite as good on a hot summer’s day as an ice cold Mountain Dew.

Despite the book’s flaws, there is something immensely readable about it. It’s action packed and almost written for the big screen (the film adaptation is currently scheduled to be released in the fall of 2010).

Even the possibility that it might not be completely accurate didn’t really bother me that much. After all, it’s about Facebook. Facebook -- where people “friend” people they may not actually know or like, secretly use profile pictures that are over a decade old, and list serious films, books with literary merit, and PBS as their “favorites” -- even if they never watch or read them. At the end of the day, I didn’t particularly care whether or not Zuckerberg is a great guy because, even though I know he is a real person, he doesn’t seem particularly "real", here. He seems like a somewhat flat character in a plot-driven story.

The Accidental Billionaires, much like Facebook itself, is a guilty pleasure. It’s like eating ice cream sundaes for dinner or watching Dancing with the Stars. Reading it may not be something to brag about, and most likely the book won’t change anyone’s life, but it’s still kind of fun.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Scholar Judith May Fathallah's work blurs lines between author and ethnographer, fan experiences and genre TV storytelling.

In Fanfiction and the Author: How Fanfic Changes Popular Culture Texts, author Judith May Fathallah investigates the progressive intersections between popular culture and fan studies, expanding scholarly discourse concerning how contemporary blurred lines between texts and audiences result in evolving mediated practices.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.