The book that helped start a revolution

| Staff Columnist

Mark Zuckerberg is a lucky guy. He’s rich, he’s young and he’s powerful. He’s been portrayed in a movie, written about in books and idolized on the Internet. He’s lucky guy in every sense of the word. The interesting thing, however, isn’t just what he created with his website Facebook, but what he and others who started sites like MySpace and Twitter started: the online social network.

The WELL (The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link) was one of the first social networking websites, started back in the ’80s. The idea was to give people a way to communicate through their computers. The original creators realized that there was money to be made if this “social networking” thing could ever take off. Eventually it would, and sites like Facebook led the way.

Last week, the rule of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt was toppled. In 2003, Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship that had lasted since 1979 ended. But there’s a distinct difference between these two changes of power. One was done with weapons and soldiers, the other with tweets and online posts. Many of the organizers who planned the protests of the Egyptian president used Facebook and Twitter to send messages, videos and information to the people of Egypt.

These protests captured the attention of the world, and not solely because of the issues of economics and corruption that the Egyptians were fighting. In an attempt to squash the protesters, the government shut down much of the Internet, including social networking websites, hoping the protesters would finally give up and go home. It didn’t work, and it seems that now other “dictator ruled” countries are starting to finally feel the pressure of the online movement. Iran is facing similar strong protests from its own people who have been suppressed for generations.

The revolution in Egypt isn’t very different than when kings and queens were overthrown in previous centuries. People felt they had seen enough and wanted something different. The winds of change are blowing.

Egyptians decided they wanted change, and they did it with relatively little violence. There were clashes between opposing groups, but the country’s military never intervened. Imagine ending global corruption without warfare. It’s still a long way away, but what we’ve seen recently is just a small taste of the true power our generation has.

I wonder if Zuckerberg was surprised to learn what his creation helped to achieve. I’ll bet he thought it was fun to create a way for people to get together. Maybe he sat in his dorm at Harvard and wondered if this idea would ever make money, or even help him meet girls. Either way, I doubt that in those early days he would have ever thought that his ideas could help oppressed people topple a corrupt leader. But Facebook helped do just that, just a little while ago. Like I said, Mark Zuckerberg is a lucky guy, especially to have an impact like that.

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