We've watched as Mark Zuckerberg took his first public steps, like a baby fawn stumbling away from its mother (and remember how that turned out for Bambi?), from his digital womb to his ascendance as an awkward dot-com wunderkind, to a totally less awkward mogul. Now a Time magazine Person of the Year (the youngest since Charles Lindbergh in 1927 -- way back when the honor was still called Man of the Year and people still read the story in the magazine instead of the Huffington Post synopsis), the 26-year-old, whether he wants it or not ("I usually don't like things that are too much about me", he told his Time interviewer), has our attention.
He's no Tom, who took uncle Rupert's money off the bat and ran. Sure Tom was everyone's friend, but nobody was making movies about him (or, basing a character in a TV show on him, which The Good Wife is now apparently doing with Zuckerberg according to a casting call), or critiquing his ever stutter and misstep. We hold Zuckerberg, with his 500 million friends, to higher standard than almost any other public CEO. And he's just a kid, still trying to balance power and responsibility on shaky fawn legs. Kara Swisher made him cry for god's sake. Kara's no softie, but do you think Barry Diller would have broken?
Zuckerberg's made, if not every mistake in the book, as CEO, then many of them. Then again some thought it was a mistake not to sell out a few million dollars, and a billion dollars, and so on.
As is well documented by now, Zuckerberg seems to have other interests. And neither money nor (we hope at least) power seem to interest him at all. As recounted in the Time story, he forgot the name of the name of the FBI director who came to him for help. Also keep in mind, the FBI came to him for help. He's not smooth (unless it's just that good of a con), and seems to have his own agenda, which only he knows (or maybe doesn't know).
So why didn't he sell to Viacom or Microsoft or Yahoo? When the money reached that theoretical stratosphere and he still stood firm, it was either hubris or fear that might have driven him. Bet on the second. Because if he had sold out at 22 or 23, his whole life would have been behind him. However altruistic he may or may not really be, Zuckerberg isn't fighting for THE future, he's fighting for his.