Yes, Assange made a distinct impact on the news and world events this year, but his face has been all over for this reason and that for weeks, and I think people are kind of sick of it. On top of that, he's hardly what one would call media friendly.
Facebook may seem like old news to us but, IIRC, it was this year that they crossed the 500M user mark. That's a pretty big deal. It sucks up 700 billion man-minutes a month, and that's only getting more out of control.
In hopes of avoiding a rant, let's just say this: if you had to write a major, year-defining (culturally, and for your publication) profile of someone, would you do it about the media figure with a hit movie "about" his life or the guy who has a tendency to walk out on interviews when he doesn't like a question?
Interview here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9308000/9308216....
The ABC interviewer received no such warning, but one can hardly blame that; when an interviewer starts leading into prurient detail about alleged rape like "allegation that you forcibly spread her legs", Assange's reaction of an immediate walk is appropriate, even if the interviewer is oblivious to the impropriety of the question.
That being said, if you were charged with creating a portrait of the man, I can understand some hesitation.
Which brings me to another point. Though Assange is clearly both newsworthy and influential, looking at the news leaves one with the sensation that his story is far from being played out. The narrative for Zuckerberg is pretty much resolved at this point. History will likely remember him more or less as he appeared in The Social Network, regardless of its accuracy. Assange's life and career, on the other hand, would necessarily leave off right before the exciting part, by virtue of it not having happened yet.
Or better, point out that this is based on accusations which are being interpreted by the legal system, with good reason for privacy: not smearing him as a person, which has been violated by the leak. There's a little bit of irony there, but wikileaks doesn't do these kinds of leaks. If, for example, wikileaks were to receive a list of patients with AIDS from a central government database, they would not leak it. I imagine Julian believes in some privacy laws, such as those protecting people on trial from unproven accusations being used to smear their person.
They also opted to not include Hussein or Bin Laden. In 2001, it was Giuliani for his response to 9/11, and not anyone actually involved.
Suffice it to say, they have a vested interest in avoiding the more contentious choices. They are becoming less relevant every year, and it seems likely that a lot of their readership still thinks facbook is cool.
So I suspect you'll never see any proper coverage of the rape allegations against him.
They made a movie about Zuckerberg!
It played in theaters, on big screens! Dozens of them. Possibly hundreds!
Not a big deal.
And btw, if they'll keep their growth at 4% per month, expect 1 billion users on ~ January 2012.
~ 1/12th of the current population of the Earth, sure. However, (as of a 2009 estimate) there have been around 106 billion homo sapiens to have lived.
Not to diminish the impact of your statistic with pedantry or anything. :)
Joking aside though - He did use the phrase 'entirety of humanity'. On the basis of that, I did not twist his words.
Most of the stuff FaceBook did to change the world happened around 2007. Heck, the fact that the movie's coming out now indicates that the important stuff happened long ago.
I have to wonder - Assange has only received serious press attention for the last few weeks. Isn't this just a case of him being more fresh in our minds?
Asked another way, looking back 3 years from now, who will most people has made a bigger impact on the world?
This is about this year IMO. Also think about masses, people from afghanistan and pakistan who don't know/care about FB knows about Assagne thanks to he being given high coverage in world media.
edit: Changed name because apparently I get modded down for referring to Mr Assange as "Rapey McRapeHair"
Caption: "Supporters of Islamic political party Jamaat-e-Islami protest in Peshawar against an online competition to draw pictures of Prophet Mohammad on Facebook which Muslims deem blasphemous May 20, 2010"
The actual nature of wikileaks's leaks has turned out to be so prosaic that it hasn't really changed anything. Apparently diplomats bitch about things. Whoop de fricking doo.
edit: Wait, I forgot about the Kenya thing, of which Assange claims "1,300 people were eventually killed, and 350,000 were displaced. That was a result of our leak."
I'd only leak to wikileaks if I (for some reason) wanted to leak ten gigabytes of randomly selected secret documents of no particular consequence. Wikileaks is the open mic night of leaking -- it's where you find the random crap, not the big stories.
They would refuse to leak random diplomatic cables which don't show any wrongdoing by anybody, though. (Although they're quite happy to publish a story about them if someone else is responsible for the leaking.)
If I were the wikimedia foundation I'd be complaining about that.
edit: And on the point of accuracy... it would be an interesting prank to leak some fake documents to Wikileaks and see if you can get 'em to make a big fanfare about them. Preferably you'd fake enough documents so that they wouldn't really check them, and it would be several days into the media cycle before folks started to notice that some of the most incriminating memos were sent between parties such as "I. P. Freely" and "Amanda Hugnkiss".
It's interesting that you think that they aren't already constantly being bombarded with false information via intelligence agencies as a tactic to discredit them.
is an annoying rhetorical tactic. Instead of explicitly suggesting P, which might require you to support the proposition P, you instead sneer at the possibility that someone might think not-P.
Actually in this case my main reason for believing not P is that they haven't been successfully trolled yet. If an intelligence agency did attempt this trick then they'd almost certainly succeed, because the Wikileaks crew are mere mortals and quite capable of being fooled by a clever fake.
If any intelligence agencies are reading this, though, and feel like offering me a job in the wikileaks-trolling department I'd be happy to accept it.
So are the intelligence agencies.
Mostly because Bob needs a 100% success rate while Alice wins with any success rate below 100%.
Oh, one more thing: Assange likes to whine every time he thinks someone is after him. If they'd picked up a bunch of fake CIA-planted information being submitted then they'd be talking about it, wouldn't they?
You wouldn't leak to The New York Times because they have no secure mechanism of any kind for leaking.
WikiLeaks is not just a two-bit news outlet looking for stories. They continue to maintain one of the most innovative and secure systems in the world for leaking sensitive materials.
Assange has repeatedly let his SSL certificates and PGP keys expire, had has had a series of completely insecure submission systems that have been disabled most of the time since he started whoring for donations a couple years ago.
I'd definitely say that will have a much bigger impact. Besides what has Zuckerbeg doen this year that he hasn't done a year before?
Wikileaks's main innovation is publishing leaks of stuff that don't matter.
I wonder how Wikileaks would make politician honest. I correlate honest with lies. What Wikileaks exposed are not lies, they are secret data/info.
I think, though, that Julian's basically validated the idea that a.) it's possible to collect, vet, and release potentially damaging information about powerful entities and b.) people care when you do. We've had time periods like this in the past (eg. the Muckraker era at the turn of the 1900s, the Pentagon Papers from the early 70s, Watergate), but the last such era seems to have been over 30 years ago. In the last 10+ years, we seem to have accepted the idea that it's okay for government and corporations to spy on us, but not okay for us to spy on them.
Julian was just the guy who had the balls to say "Umm, two can play at this game" and follow through on it. He's validated the market. It's like Napster and Friendster: the services themselves failed, but they paved the way for iTunes and FaceBook, which have become huge.
Can you imagine what'll happen when some enterprising anarchist hacker hooks up spyware, a botnet, and a spam network? It's not terribly difficult to write malware that scans each infected computer for any documents and posts them as spam comments to blogs or sends them out as spam emails. The thing is - once the information is out there, it naturally gets collaboratively-filtered. The interesting tidbits will be forwarded on or posted to Reddit, while the boring stuff will be deleted as garden-variety spam.
I suspect that there's already malware out there that does exactly this, but instead of posting confidential info to random blogs, it just uplinks it to the Chinese government or some Russian mafia syndicate.
The impact of WikiLeaks is that it's turned a spotlight on the damage that can be done - and more important, the attention that can be gained - by leaking information. That makes it far more likely that some bright, naughty teenager is going to think "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if everything was out there?" and dump everything out there.
Also, given the criteria where is Osama Bin Laden? His actions have done more to change the everyday world for people in the US than any other person in the last decade.
I wonder if certain people and agencies had a hand in this?
 it does - I know - just not as much as certainly other things do
Most people would admit that Facebook is a pretty interesting phenomenon. That a few hundred million people are at least shallowly engaging with people they haven't seen in years is pretty remarkable. But where I disagree with Time is that I don't think Zuckerberg was a particularly necessary ingredient. Facebook hit the scene as basically a cleaner, better designed MySpace. Zuckerberg's execution was spot on, but frankly, a lot of people could have done it. A large part of Facebook's success was being at the right place at the right time. And once the network effect kicked in, it pretty much drives itself.
Assange on the other hand has put his ass on the line and managed to embarrass and disgruntle some of the most powerful players on the planet - ostensibly in the name of transparency. The implications of his actions are that world super powers are having to reconsider many of their assumptions about diplomacy and security, and that the world's citizenry are having to ponder the value and risks of free speech. Or at least they should be...
Mark I suspect isn't nearly as good a programmer as the press (or his company PR) makes him out to be. Early versions of the site were a simple PHP index app. Only now once they've hired significant talent has he started harping on and on about the "social graph". Simply put I don't think he was up to the level to even do graph traversals/searches/etc at that point.
If Mark had tried to do the graph stuff first, would he be just another corpse littering the landscape? I suspect so. So his incompetence
was his lucky pot of gold.
However, I'd disagree with placing Deng Xiaoping in the same list as Hitler and Stalin. He's arguably the architect of modern China, and such a towering positive achievement is only mildly dented by his responsibility for the Tiananmen massacre (IMO).
Paraphrased: "This individual/company/group is the root of all evil and is against every thing this organization fights for. You should boycott everything they do and cover your personal space with warnings about them. Tell all your friends."
Rather than doing this, I wish advocacy organizations like the FSF would take (and project) a measured response. ("Facebook in useful to a huge number of people, but we are very concerned that they are using their market clout to seriously infringe on the privacy of their users. To improve, Facebook should...")
There is no measured response. The facts themselves are too unbalanced for the FSF to appear measured without being overly generous to Facebook.
The FSF might use a different presentation for greater effect; but ultimately, the message is: the FSF doesn't want Facebook around any more. Period.
(I realize market cap isn't a great metric in itself, but bringing Apple out of the 90s slump to where it is today, is a feat in itself. Becoming part of our culture and daily life, is quite another.)
"Because so many sites — including TIME — use Facebook's user-tracking "Like" button, Zuckerberg is able to collect information about people who aren't even users of his site. These are precedents which hurt our ability to freely connect with each other"
Nope - it just hurts our ability to connect privately. Not the same thing.
"The fact that Facebook's code is hidden from view means that its users are not connecting directly with each other. They are speaking to Mr. Zuckerberg [...]"
What does Facebook being open-source or not have anything to do with it? Does Word being closed-source mean that everything I write in Word is really a communication to Microsoft?
Even worse, that sentence leads to this:
"witness the recent reports of Facebook's messaging service blocking messages based on the words and links in them, because those links point to services which Facebook would prefer we not discuss."
I'm assuming this is about Facebook blocking links to Lamebook. According to Tech Crunch, this went on for only a few hours. It was probably a bug/mistake - I can imagine the same thing happening from Gmail or any other mail provider. TC article: http://techcrunch.com/2010/11/22/facebook-censorship/
Facebook code being unknown let Zuckerberg be the man in the middle of every Facebook based communications. Facebook could log everything, for all we know. The sentence is accurate.
Censorship is a rather minor issue. It's ineffective because there are other channels, and it's risky because people are loud about that. I mostly worry about Spying, which is way less risky, way more effective, and way more dangerous.
Actually they do, indirectly. It's part of a nasty feedback cycle: the progressive centralization of the internet. The internet is supposed to have no centre. Centralizing it effectively mean shutting it down, and get back to something like AOL.
The feedback cycle itself is quite simple. First, people start not to use the whole internet. Like, they don't send e-mail (they ask their mail provider to do it for them), they don't host a web site, etc. Second, ISPs start to restrict their customers: they filter the SMTP port, they offer an asymmetric bandwidth, and some don't even give you a public IP! They get away with all those restrictions because too few people felt them in the first place. That leads to situations that would be unfathomable otherwise, like MegaUpload replacing Peer to peer for file sharing.
The ultimate conclusion of this trend is a connected world divided in 2 categories: (Big) companies, which will have full internet connexions, and the regular folk, which will have nothing but the outgoing HTTP port open. Which means that to do anything, a user will have to find some central hub first, and go through that. Facebook is one of those hubs. Facebook is part of this trend.
With a quality network, some services wouldn't have any reason to exist at all: Gmail, YouTube, Facebook, MSN, MegaUpload… Give everyone a symmetric bandwith with all ports open and a Freedom Box, and those services are all toast. Give everyone a convenient, secured, asymmetric, pseudo internet connexion, and our freedoms are toast.
Can you please elaborate? I honestly don't know what you mean.
Do you mean that women prefer to communicate in this particular medium?
Facebook is harmful, but people don't care about being harmed or losing their freedom. Educating them is just a waste of money.
Now I host my mail server on a virtual machine on a small hosting provider that I somewhat trust. I'll host it myself soon (I've just received my new Sheeva Plug). So, if you write to me now, your privacy will be enhanced compared to one year ago. So, me quitting Gmail could be a direct improvement to your privacy.
And that's partly thanks to the FSF's advocacy.
I will just mentally pretend that the FSF is just GNU, then I am happy :)
Even if it wasn't Julian Assange... any of the other individuals in the top 10 list except for Mark Zuckerberg would of made a much better "Person of the Year."
Seriously though, you reckon Lady Gaga and the Chilean Miners are more man-of-the-year material than Zuckerberg? One is a random pop star, the other is a feel-good story which nobody will remember in 2012.
It's true that Zuckerberg's impact may have been more in 2008 or 2009 than 2010, but since he wasn't honoured in either of those years I think he's a fair choice this year.
What about the engineers who stopped the BP oil well? (Or it could negative about the engineers that screwed up the BP oil well?
Or Healthcare Reform? I know Republicans love to hate her but can anyone deny Nancy Pelosi's impact on passing that law? It will have the biggest long term effect on American's lives of anything that happened this year.
If we are talking about disliking something, what I dislike about FSF is their arrogance showed by criticizing various software creations, without being able to create worthwhile alternative.
One of the core principles of the FSF is that proprietary software is worthless regardless of its other merits. And they do work on alternatives. It's just more expensive and less visible than advocacy.
I think there will always be a small set of companies at the center of social, is Facebook a good gatekeeper? Questionable, we could have a lot worse though.
By the way, the same goes for web based e-mail.
By itself "control over our data" could mean privacy, or it could mean the ability to export our own data and use it as we please. But if you take it to mean privacy, the third item is redundant.
Keep in mind that you can always export all the data on your Facebook profile as a .zip file on demand. It's your data at the end of the day.
In other words, is it enough data that you can just export and jump ship to another social network without much interruption (assuming some reasonable transformation effort for the data)?
To fix that problem, Facebook needs to become a-centred. But that would be throwing away their busyness model along with their data-centres.
I doubt Time will ever pick anyone that nobody complains about, and if they ever did then they'd probably be disappointed to find that their circulation was way down.
I think Zuckerberg is about as good a pick as any. If it were Assange then I'd accuse Time of recentism, since hardly anyone even know who he was back in June, and we may mostly have forgotten by next June.