The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand

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Location: Mahalo HQ, Santa Monica
Mood: Quixotic
Last Wednesday, 10AM, Las Vegas.

The South Point Hotel and Casino, a couple of miles off the strip. The
kind of hotel where you can get steak and eggs for $2.99–24 hours a

Cashier: “How would you like your $200,000, Mr. Calacanis? Chips?”

Me: “That would be perfect.”

A huge security guard carries my “bird cage”–lingo for a clear white
case used for carrying poker chips–to the set of “PokerStars’ The Big
Game,” the most expensive poker show ever created.

Two hours later, I’ve got sick cards and I’m facing the most famous
poker player of all time, Doyle Brunson.

Me: “All in.”

Doyle: “I. Call.”

To myself: F@#$ me–I guess I overplayed my [INSERT CARDS HERE].

[Note: I can’t say anything else about the hand due to my contractual
agreement. I can say that I feel I played well on the Big Game, which
will be airing on June 14th on Fox. 🙂 ]

Overplaying your hand
The biggest mistake most new players make at poker is overplaying
their hand. They spend so much time thinking of the ways they can win
that they forget all the ways they can lose. Overplaying hands can
affect even the most seasoned players, especially after they’ve won a
couple of hands in a row.

Over the past month, Mark Zuckerberg, the hottest new card player in
town, has overplayed his hand. Facebook is officially “out,” as in
uncool, amongst partners, parents and pundits all coming to the
realization that Zuckerberg and his company are–simply put–not

Casual gaming company Zynga is reportedly developing plans to get over
their Facebook dependency. I predict a complete heads-up match with
Facebook–Zynga’s now been double-crossed not once but twice by
Zuckerberg. (The first double-cross was when Facebook stopped letting
applications like Farmville easily market themselves on profile
pages.) Instead, Zynga and others were told to advertise their apps if
they wanted distribution. OK, I’m guessing that evaporates 20-35% of
an app developer’s margin.

Now, Facebook is reportedly forcing developers to use their virtual
currency–for a 30% cut. These two moves have to take at least 50% of
the margin out of Zynga’s business.

Last year, when I realized that Zuckerberg was an amoral,
Asperger’s-like entrepreneur, I told Zynga CEO Mark Pincus that
Zuckerberg would try and slit his throat. I knew this because I
watched Zuckerberg screw over his users again and again in terms of
privacy, and I heard about the stories of him screwing over his former
employers at ConnectU and his early partners at Facebook.

The money quote from Business Insider’s scoop comes from Zuckerberg
himself: “they made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them.
So I’m like delaying it so it won’t be ready until after the facebook
thing comes out.” He stalled and sandbagged ConnectU–then
Zuckerpunched them! Of course, the person he said this to was his
partner–Eduardo Saverin–who he reportedly screwed as well.

Read all here:

Add to all this that Zuckerberg was stealing every tiny innovation the
second Evan Williams and the team over at Twitter released it, and
Zuckerberg is clearly the worst thing that’s happened to our industry
since, well, spam.

You’re Zucked!
Yes, that’s the new catch phrase for when someone either steals your
business idea or screws you as a business partner.

Who’s been Zucked and how? Let’s take a look back:

1. FourSquare was Zucked when Facebook stole their check-in feature.
2. Twitter was Zucked when Facebook stole their public facing profiles.
3. Facebook users got Zucked when the site flipped their privacy
setting–three different times!
4. The co-founder of Facebook was allegedly Zucked when he was kicked
out of the company he helped found.
5. The founders of ConnectU got Zucked when he allegedly screwed them
over by not delivering their social network and then launching
Facebook at the same time–and joked about it!
6. Harvard reporters reportedly got Zucked when Mark hacked their
accounts to try and stop a negative story/investigation about him.

You can only screw people for so long before it catches up to you. The
entire industry went from rooting for Zuckerberg to hating him and
Facebook–in under 18 months.

Peter Rojas and Matt Cutts have turned off their Facebook pages, and
more intelligent people everywhere are talking about doing so.

Zuckerberg represents the best and worst aspects of entrepreneurship.
His drive, skill and fearlessness are only matched by his long
record–recorded in lawsuit after lawsuit–of backstabbing, stealing
and cheating.

A look at last week’s headlines shows the trend:

Facebook’s Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline

Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook

Yet another Facebook privacy risk: emails Facebook sends leak user IP address

A Stunning Infographic on Facebook’s scary privacy evolution

Facebook’s “Posts By Everyone” Feature: Do People Realize They’re
Sharing To The World?

Facebook’s Gone Rogue; It’s Time for an Open Alternative | Epicenter |

Senators Call Out Facebook On ‘Instant Personalization’, Other Privacy Issues

Facebook’s email days: “I’m CEO bith@#$%!”

Facebook’s new features secretly add apps to your profile

The Day Facebook Stole My Page

Facebook is Dying – Social is Not

Facebook’s “Evil Interfaces” | Electronic Frontier Foundation

I’m not making this up people.

The Stakes
We’ve fought for years to create an open web, and we would be crazy to
give our future over to a selfish little kid who has no problem
stealing any innovation he catches from the corner of his eye from
other entrepreneurs.

Didn’t anyone read “Tom Sawyer”? We’re whitewashing Zuckerberg’s fence.

People are creating fan pages on Facebook and then paying Facebook to
send them traffic. Let me explain this one more time: You’re PAYING
Mark Zuckerberg money to send traffic to HIS SITE. Think about it.

Oh yeah, and while he’s taking your money and page views, he’s
convincing everyone that they don’t need their own customer’s
information: Just use Facebook Connect!

Oh yeah, and if you’re stupid enough to give up your customer database
to Facebook, he will pay you back by screwing over your user’s
privacy! Yes, that’s right: give up your customer database, pay for
traffic to build Facebook’s page views and, by the way, if you would
like to use a virtual currency, Zuck will take 30% of that as well!

Are we blind? It’s a trap! It’s a trap!

Zuckerberg’s crowning achievement is, of course, to show his utter
disdain and contempt for the industry by not only claiming–but
naming–his master plan “The Open Graph.”

An alternate path
There a people and organizations in our industry–heck, our
world–that believe in being fair and respectful to competitors and
consumers alike. They don’t see the need to reverse open standards.
Rather, they embrace and expand them. Facebook is not good for our
industry, and as talented as Zuckerberg is, he is hopelessly misguided
and has a horrible ethics problem.

The Internet is the fastest growing medium–heck “thing”–in history
because it was designed to be open and fair. If you have a level
playing field people can invest in it. That is why the United States
has been such an amazing place to invest in a business and places run
by dictators are not. At any point your investment in Facebook can be
taken from you. At any point they can change the rules, and history
shows that dictators tend to changes rules in their favor–not the
other way around.

Facebook taking people’s topic pages out from under them or their
forcing folks into their virtual currency is no different than a
dictator in a 3rd world country telling an outside investor who just
spent millions putting in wireless phone network that their taxes have
just doubled–conveniently to a level that is almost exactly their
profit margin.

Anyone who trusts Facebook to do the right thing for the industry,
their customers or their application partners simply needs to look at
their history. Remember Frank’s First Rule from “Scarface”: “Lesson
number one: Don’t underestimate the other guy’s greed!”

The Web and HTML grew into the juggernaut they are today because
they’re based on open standards that everyone can buy into. No one
player has control or dominance over anyone else. Facebook’s very
obvious goal is to use the their social graph dominance to control the
future of advertising and attention on the Web. Why on Earth are we
supporting this?

The Social Graph will only reach its potential if it is truly
open–not controlled by a spoiled little kid with questionable ethics.

It’s time for the good people of the world to stand up against
Facebook. It’s time to build and support OpenID and the creation of an
truly open social graph. It’s time to force Facebook to allow open
data portability. It is our data, after all. The road map for the open
web has been laid out and supported by the “good guys/gals” at OpenID,
Google, Twitter, Open Social and countless others who don’t feel the
need to control the industry and manipulate our customers.

The more we feed the monster that is Facebook, the more we lose.

A Facebook Boycott?
I’d call for a boycott of Facebook, but they’ve actually beaten me to it!

The enthusiasm for Facebook has soured with early adopters, Facebook’s
biggest partners and the French all pilling on. (Hey, you’re nobody
until the French hate you, right?).

In the words of Warren Buffet, “Look for three qualities: integrity,
intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other
two will kill you.”

Facebook has been overplaying hands for a long time and there is a
chance they might now get felted.

Stop Facebook, Save the World!

best regards,


PS – You may have read on TechCrunch that Mike Arrington and I have
parted ways and that the TechCrunch50 conference is over–dead! It’s
true… tear drop! 🙂 However, I’m starting a new conference called
the Launch Conference which will debut in early 2011. It will be the
same exact as TechCrunch50, except I’m going invest all the profits
from it in the companies that present. More at as it becomes available. It will be epic,
and you will be attending.  🙂

PSS – If you want to go to Mike Arrington’s new version of TechCrunch
50 it is called TechCrunch Disrupt–and I will be speaking at it! You
can signup with a 10% discount at this Jason Nation link:

PSS – Open Angel Forum is coming to Boston, London and Seattle in 2010
thanks two our two national sponsors Symantec and Silicon Valley Bank.
If you have suggestions for angel investors please email boston at (or london@ or seattle@ etc).

PSSS – Had a great interview with Joel Spolsky of Joel on
Software/StackOverflow fame last week. You can watch it here:

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3 thoughts on “The Big Game, Zuckerberg and Overplaying your Hand

  1. Everything comes and goes, even the titans. Facebook is huge now, and will be huge for a long time – it’ll probably be the first billion-person social network.

    But eventually it will get happy and lazy and stupid, and fail, just like IBM, Microsoft, probably Google, and others.

    Manipulating the rules of your virtual kingdom sounds great in theory, and in the short term it will boost Facebook’s revenue. But in the long term it will be their undoing.

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