The people who run Facebook, the social-networking company, are furious about a new movie that takes lots of liberties in its depiction of how Facebook came into existence. They’re upset because much of The Social Network, which opens Oct. 1, is just completely made up. That’s fair enough. But to me, the really interesting thing about this movie is that while much of the tale is invented, the story tells a larger truth about Silicon Valley’s get-rich-quick culture and the kind of people—like Facebook’s 26-year-old founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg—who thrive in this environment.
The Valley used to be a place run by scientists and engineers, people like Robert Noyce, the Ph.D. physicist who helped invent the integrated circuit and cofounded Intel. The Valley, in those days, was focused on hard science and making things. At first there were semiconductors, which is how Silicon Valley got its name; then came computers and software. But now the Valley has become a casino, a place where smart kids arrive hoping to make an easy fortune building companies that seem, if not pointless, at least not as serious as, say, old-guard companies like HP, Intel, Cisco, and Apple.
The three hottest tech companies today are Facebook, Twitter, and Zynga. What, exactly, do they do?
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