Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Serpico

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Members: 22k
Date: June 3, 2010
‘Sup: Going to Lakers/Celtics game!
Forward: To anyone who has “a Facebook”
Web republishing Rights: Ask first

Tuesday night 6PM, a stylish ballroom in a $500 a night hotel in
Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Twenty minutes below LAX, but located
on a bluff that would give you the impression you were in Maui–or on
the Cliffs of Moore.

One of those places that makes New Yorkers consider moving moving to
California and hanging it up, but that once you’re here you’ll never
visit again.

From the row behind me a familiar voice: “Hey, how’s it going.”

“Oh, hey… I’m Jason nice to see you again.”

“I know who you are.”

“Do you play poker?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Well, do you have money? We have a game later and I could teach you.”

He flashes a big smile.

Of the 1,200 seats in the auditorium, Mark Zuckberg sits directly behind mine.

What an awkward coincidence.

Steve Jobs on Mark Zuckerg
Steve Jobs takes the stage to open the Wall Street Journal’s D
conference, and a thousand people who are used to being the smartest
in the room are, in 10 shuffled steps from the backstage curtain to a
modern red desk chair, not.

A flurry of questions followed by the type of honest and
self-delusional answers that can only come from someone who has
changed the world.

Remember the Mark Cuban rule: there’s a negative correlation between
how much money someone is worth and how honest they can be, until such
time as they have more influence, power and money than they could
possibly need. At that point wealth and honesty become a perfect–and
linear correlation.

In other words, people like Mark Cuban and Steve Jobs don’t give a f-
what anyone thinks–and you know it.

Jobs fired away at Adobe over the Flash issue. He discussed how his
closed platform is actually open because they support HTML5. He
discussed why Google is toast (no one searches anymore, if they want a
restaurant they just open the Yelp application).

It was brilliant and the crowd was in awe.

However, the question of the night was posed by Walt Mossberg when he
asked Steve to discuss privacy. Before asking Steve about privacy he
pointed out that it was a major issue and that we would be discussing
it with the speakers at the conference. Walt made a reference to
Zuckerberg and the entire audience looked over at Zuck who, like the
busted school kid he still plays, sheepishly raised his hand in

Steve said: “Privacy means people know what they are signing up for in
plain English. Some people want to share more data. Ask them. Ask them
every time. Let them know precisely what you are going to do with
their data.”

So Steve’s position on privacy is that you have to be super clear with
users every single time you could possibly breach their privacy. He
pointed out that you have to take responsibility for this issue and
take it seriously. This is why every application on your iPhone that
wants to use your location has to “hit” Apple’s software to obtain
your coordinates. Apple’s operating system than asks you with the easy
to understand dialogue box if it can give your location to the

This is a really well thought out way to protect and educate users, or
said another way: “not the way Facebook would do it.”

Steve said the folks at Apple were really concerned that some kid
might get attacked–or worse–because someone tracked them with their
technology. That could never happen right? Oh wait, Facebook is under
assault for just this type of issue in Australia. Details:

While the audience cheered Steve’s position, I turned to Zuckerberg
behind me and said: “I hope you’re taking notes.”

Zuck laughed, and Sheryl Sandberg–the adult brought in to keep
Facebook and Zuckerberg out of trouble–shot me an aggressive stare
from over his shoulder.


Then, out of site from Zuckberg, she winked and smiled at me.

Well played Sandberg, well played. In one complicated glance she
admonished me for busting on the Golden Child, and then sent me the
clear message that she appreciated that I’ve been educating the kid.

…. at least that’s how I read it.

I am Serpico
One of the 10 most influential people in the industry told me last
week, over email, that I had to get in line. They demanded that I
apologize to Zuck now that he held his “we can do better” press
conference, and that I had to turn my Facebook page back on.

Walking around the D conference I felt like Serpico. It feels like I
crossed the Blue Line, where technology executives don’t get into big
public fights that are bad for business. There are a lot of folks who
are getting rich selling Facebook shares on SecondMarket today, and
there are many more people–including friends of mine–who have a
large percentage of their net worth in Facebook shares.

The sad part about the situation is that the person who sent me the
email demands has massive influence over the industry, the people I
work with. He could buy and sell me many times over. In short, this
power broker could make my life and career in technology miserable.

In fact, he could probably get me fired… and he let me know that in
so many words.

He insisted that Facebook is the future of the internet, and
remembering the “Mark Cuban” rule I volleyed back that if Facebook’s
closed ecosystem–that is pissing in the pool of internet users–is
the future I don’t want any part of it. He wouldn’t have to get me
fired–I would retire before seeing Facebook become the internet.

We built the internet on open standards and carring for users.
Zuckerberg and Facebook are trying to reverse open standards, is
stealing every startup idea to put into his closed ecosystem and
screwing our collective users. He’s screwing all bussinesses by
screwing over the entire userbase.

Blood on the Pacific
This email was going to end here, but something very unexpected
happened. In the same ballroom where over a thousand of the most
important leaders in technology and media watched in awe as Steve Jobs
explained the world to them, Mark Zuckerberg imploded.

It started with some stammering before going into full-blown babbling.
Zuckerberg started profusessly sweating in a room that was chilled to
a level so arctic that people were wearing jackets and women were
imploring security guards to turn down the AC.

The camera operators had clearly spent time working on, or studying,
60 Minutes cinematography.

They zoomed in on Zuckerberg slowly, framed only his head as he
avoided even the most basic question. If you’ve ever seen the
hilarious Martin Short skit on 60 Minutes, where he plays defensive
executive Nathan Thurm, well, this was worse. Link:

Kara Swisher, known for eviscerating tech executives, experienced
sympathy for the first time on stage when it appeared Zuckerberg was
having a panic attacking of sorts. She implored him to take his
trademark hoodie off, and he resisted until Swisher’s well-hidden
doting mother skills took over: “Take. It. Off!” she insisted.

He complied.

Trying to recuperate Zuckerberg awkwardly reached for incomprehensible
anecdotes. Walt Mossberg was determined to get Zuckerberg to answer
just one question about privacy, but he wouldn’t. After the train
wreck of an interview everyone was debating why Zuckerberg wouldn’t
answer the most simple questions, and one of the old guard journalists
turned entrepreneurs deadpanned: “he didn’t hear the questions.”

One conference impresario speculated that Mark was over prepared by
his handlers, while the retired impresario diagnosed it as him
refusing preparation–saying something like “I got this.”

The Knock-out Blow
As Zuckerberg squirmed, and the crowd of my peers finally saw what I
have been talking about in this newsletter for over a year, I had a
brief moment of satisfaction. You can’t trust this guy! He’s avoiding
the questions! Look at him sweating! The Golden Boy Emperor has no

Alas, schadenfreude is fleeting, base and meaningless. The word is
ugly to type or say, let alone feel.

The gloating dissappainted quickly, and I immediately felt tremendous
sympathy for someone who might, in fact, not be a bad actor, but a
clueless one who is in over his head.

My dissonance over Facebook has always been that they are so good at
what they do, but they are so evil in how they do it.

In my version of the world the smart people doing bad things quickly
realize that you can be more successful being a mensch than not. When
that moment occurs, they flip from being Ken Lay to Richard Branson,
or Lex Luthor to Superman.

Ten years ago, during my enfant terrible period, I would have been the
first one up to the microphone during the Q&A period. Before the talk
I prepared a question or two, but I felt too much empathy for Mark.

The truth is, people who do bad things for extended periods of time,
eventually have to answer for them. Last night was Mark’s.

Now the question is, can he become a mensch?

Five things Facebook can do to rebuild trust
Here’s my open letter to Mark on how he can rebuild trust, and what it
would take for me to be an active Facebook user.


Nice seeing you at the conference. It was very nice of you to come
over and say hello. Since I’m now getting career death-threats from
folks in your camp, perhaps we can work settle this?

You heard what the Godfather, Steve Jobs, said at the conference.
Let’s settle this.

Here are five simple things you can do to make yourself, and Facebook,
more trustworthy.

1. Add an export key.
Every major consumer service out there has this feature called
“export.” When you click on this feature the service returns to you
the information you’ve put in it. In the case of Facebook you could do
this by having the ability for users to export all their photos,
contacts and–gasp–their social graph! I’m certainly no more than 1%
of users would ever use this feature–but it would speak volumes.

Or you could simply allow the 3rd party folks who have ALREADY BUILT
THESE FEATURES to not have them turned off by your engineers for
breaking your “terms of service.” The fact that you don’t have an easy
to export feature is such a “tell.” A tell in poker is a behaviorial
nuance that gives away how strong or weak your hand is.

Your hand is really weak if you don’t have an export feature. The best
services in the world have export and you don’t. Why? I suspect you
realize how quickly people might leave if you added this. The counter
intuitive thing is that people DON’T leave when they see an export
button unless you really suck–and you don’t! Your products are good
and you should let people move their data.

2. Support a common ‘Like’ standard
This is so simple. Create an open standard where all likes and like
buttons would go into some central repository and be shared across
StumbleUpon, Digg, Delicious and whoever else wants the data.

One of the reasons Facebook has become despised in the startup
community is because you don’t embrace open source and collaborative
solutions. Oh yeah, you steal everyone’s ideas and incorporate them
into your product and then make them closed. That’s a smack in the
face and then a kick in the ass to your colleaguesand, in the end,

3. Do not require folks to use your currency
Allow 100 different currencies inside of Facebook in the same way
Google allows Chrome to support any search engine. Sure, go ahead and
make yourself the default, but think big picture and let there be some
level of competition inside your ecosystem.

4. Remind users of their privacy setting
Require a dialogue box every 10 days or so that reminds users of the
default status of their updates before posting them, and allow them to
set their standard privacy setting in that dialogue box. Make this a
road block in plain english–not Facebook engineer speak–so that
grandma and 14 year olds understand it.

Here is some sample dialogue: “Currently everyone in the world can see
your status updates, and they are indexed in search engines and our
service forever. You can change this setting right now for all your
updates going forward. Here are your choices: 1. Send updates to
everyone (your current setting), 2. Send updates only to my friends,
3. Send updates to my friends and their friends. If you don’t
understand this please click here to watch a video about our three
privacy options.”

Consider a similar dialogue when folks upload photos.

5. Stop stealing every idea out there and partner!
Would it kill you partner with the companies that your rolling over
every two weeks? You’ve already won, so now is the time to be
magnanimous! Pick 10 groovy startups and partner with them. I know,
you are modeling your career after Bill Gates and his annilahtion of
partners including WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3 and countless others.

You’re building up a lot of enemies by not partnering and playing nice
with startups. That might work when you’re the big boy on the block,
but the second you’re alone and you trip up the “weak people” are
going to pile on. The proper protocol in the valley is to at least try
and partner, or purchase, the startups who have innovated in a space
you’re going into. It’s clear you have no intention of doing that, and
hey, that’s your right!

That being said, no one trusts you any more after you screwed app
developers and lifted Twitter, FourSquare, Quora and countless other
startups’ innovations. There seems to be no way to work with Facebook
other than “getting rolled.”

Good luck, and don’t forget that a flush beats a straight,


1. Who would you most like to see write a follow up to this piece? Ask
them to and if it is good I will send in a followup piece.
2. If you write an amazing response back I might include it in a
“Feedback” email I plan to do. If you do this please be sure to put
your name, title, company, etc. If you want it anonymous say
“anonymous” in the subject line and at the top.
3. What could Facebook do to make you trust them again/more?
4. Watch the video and tell me what you see:
5. Lakers or Celtics? How many games?
6. Who will the Knicks land this summer? Chances of LeBron are what %?
7. What are you favorite three iPad applications?
8. What piece of software or hardware do you love right now and why?
9. Ladies: best anniversary gift you ever received and why? (yes, I’m
crowdsourcing it!)
10. Are you coming to the Startup Meetup on Tuesday? 150+ cities:

Some misc Updates
1. Special thanks to Nick Baily of & Lon
Harris of for helping with the edit!
2. Open Angel Forum comes to Boston on June 18th–do you know any
angels in Boston? Let me know!
3. Welcome to Jason Rapp, who has joined Mahalo as President. This is
a big deal. 🙂
4. The Launch Conference will be in February of 2011. Details soon at
5. Mahalo is looking for amazing developers out of school who want to
learn, challenge themselves and be part of a killer team. If you join
Mahalo we will teach you so much that you can double your salary and
go to a dying company after only one year! 🙂 Seriously, we have an
amazing group of talented people and you need to join our cult…
urrr…. company. Yes, we do import people from outside of Santa
Monica, no we don’t have remote positions. email jacob at
and cc me jason at
6. If you’re an amazing developer who works over 60-70 hours a week
like a maniac *and* want to work at one of my portfolio companies,
send me an email about what you love about the company and how you can
help it and I will forward it on. Do not ask for me to forward you on
if you are not an absolute killer–my value is in helping recruit
killers for these killer companies!!! 🙂 “My companies” include
amazing folks like (NYC),
(NYC), (SF), (SF),
(NYC), (NYC), (Austin),
(LA), (LA), http://www.CauseCast (LA), http://www.Backupify (KY!)
and (LA).
7. If you’ve made an amazing product that I should consider for one of
my ten yearly investments please send the URL of this product to and cc me to get the
ball rolling. No business plans, models or decks–I won’t open them. I
only invest in real products built by killers. I don’t invest in
powerpoint decks or bullshit business models–show me the product!
8. on June 8th in 150+ cities… be there!

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From: Jason McCabe Calacanis
902 Colorado Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
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2 thoughts on “Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Serpico

  1. I usually joke that ‘nathan thurm does my legal’. The video doesn’t show it well but he is swimming in flop sweat. M Short genius..

  2. If I were to click to play that video, how much information about my surfing habits are sent to YouTube/Google/GooTube? Or even just by loading this page @ Calacanis.COM, has any information about my so-called “surfing behavior” been shared with any/all of those companies? What are the laws concerning data protection in Italy? Does yhoo.IT have any *additional* privacy or TOS agreements? By following any such links, am I implicitly agree to any such “agreement”?

    Inquiring minds want to know….

    😉 nmw

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