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All Posts  /   /  February 02, 2012 

Can 'The Hacker Way' Survive Facebook's IPO?

Perhaps it’s only to be expected that many of the pundits writing about Facebook’s regulatory filings would include company founder Mark Zuckerberg’s age (27) and the fact that he wrote the first lines of code for the application in his Harvard dorm room. The eight-year old Facebook, despite its humongous success – 845 million active users as of December 31, 2011, more than 3,000 employees – is still not a mature company, and one wonders if the youthful business philosophies currently governing its exponential growth will survive an IPO.

Zuckerberg, in a letter attached to Facebook’s regulatory filings, outlined how the “Hacker Way” helps the company embody their five core values: “focus on impact, move fast, be bold, be open and build social value.” His letter is being compared in the press to what Andy Greenberg in Forbes calls Google’s “‘Don’t Be Evil’ mantra” written by Larry Page and Sergy Brin, as well as the letters written by other tech firms. As CNNMoney explains:
It's become common for tech entrepreneurs to include these kinds of missives in their IPO filings. The documents are half-warning, half-plea: 'Hey shareholders, here's the culture you're about to buy into. Please don't break it.'

CNNMoney picks up on the term “mantra” as well, when quoting Zuckerberg’s letter: "There's a hacker mantra that you'll hear a lot around Facebook offices: 'Code wins arguments.'" The article continues: “It's a line that captures the spirit of the company's engineering-driven culture, where all-night coding sessions and "hackathons" are popular.”

In his article in Venture Beat, “How the ‘The Hacker Way’ helped propel Facebook to market dominance,” Dylan Tweney says that Zuckerberg’s including this statement in his letter is “a sign of how deeply the hacker ethos has transformed the way the tech industry works.” He pulls out some of the main points from Zuckerberg’s letter into bullet points:

    • “Done is better than perfect.”

    •  “Code wins arguments.”

    •  “Move fast and break things.”

    •  “The riskiest thing is to take no risks.”


Zuckerberg’s so-called meritocracy, where ideas win out over office politics and speed is considered more important than completeness, is criticized by some who note that Zuckerberg will continue to hold the majority share in the company. Some pundits – including Bloomberg’s Douglas MacMillian – even claim that his level of control may constitute the greatest danger to the success of a public company. Others point out that “The Hacker Way” has already resulted in user dissatisfaction in changes to the interface and privacy concerns.

Zuckerberg’s entire letter has been reprinted by several media outlets. Read it on Bloomberg here.
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