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How Mark Zuckerberg Hacked the Valley

You know what’s cool? Ninety-six billion dollars
How Mark Zuckerberg Hacked the Valley
Photograph by Carlos Serrao

In 2006, when he was 22, Mark Zuckerberg gave up writing computer code to focus on managing his rapidly growing startup. Like Jim Brown retiring from football at 29 or E.M. Forster abandoning the novel in his forties, the prodigy who programmed the very first version of Facebook was walking away from his transcendent talent. Or so it seemed. A few years later, Zuckerberg began setting annual tests of discipline for himself, vowing to wear a tie to work every day in 2009, learn Mandarin in 2010, and personally kill any animal he ate in 2011. Earlier this year, unbeknown to all but a few friends and co-workers, he gave himself a new challenge with unknown ramifications for what is soon to be Silicon Valley’s newest public company. Mark Zuckerberg pledged to return to his roots and spend time programming each day.

Zuckerberg’s true skill has always been a facility for hacking. That’s a foundational verb at Facebook, to hack. In its offering prospectus, Facebook repeatedly describes its corporate culture as “the hacker way”; on its new campus, a 57-acre office park abutting San Francisco Bay in Menlo Park, Calif., there’s a building with a big sign that reads “The Hacker Company.” Those slogans don’t mean Facebook is teaming up with Anonymous or breaking into NORAD. They’re talking about achieving a goal in an unconventional way.