Which Zuck are we today?
According to Spotify founder Daniel Ek, there are more Mark Zuckerbergs than meet the eye.
In a new interview with Forbes, Ek — a close friend to fellow billionaire and Meta-formerly-Facebook overlord Zuckerberg — explained that Zuck has three distinct personas, at least in the public's imagination.
According to Ek, there's the "The Social Network Mark," an awkward, egotistical young founder who abandons his friends in his quest to build the Silicon Valley behemoth that became Facebook, as Zucko was portrayed in the 2008 film inspired by Facebook's origins. There's also the "Cambridge Analytica or 'evil Mark,'" Ek says, or the Zuck defined by the massive Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal of the late 201os, the fallout from which ultimately caused a public grappling with the ubiquitous power of tech giants and the now-billionaires — Zuck included — who led them.
And finally, Ek told Forbes, there's Zuck's image today, which is a calmer, more "authentic" version of the founder — who, per Ek, has "learned a lot over these past few years and he has a new fire in the belly."
"He's realized he needs to act responsibly," the military AI investor added, "because he's got this enormous platform."
To Ek's point, the meat-smoking Facebook founder's public persona has indeed softened in recent years.
The Cambridge Analytica ordeal turned much of the public sharply against Zucko, as did a separate Trump-era scandal involving an influx of Russian bots on Facebook designed to influence the 2016 election (although the optics still weren't great, a study from earlier this year came to the conclusion that the bots didn't really do much to sway the election's outcomes.)
But amid Facebook's dwindling relevance, mass Meta layoffs, and Zucko's legless, much-lampooned Metaverse pivot, maybe some empathy has kicked in, with Zuck's image becoming more palatable. And then, of course, there's the founder's recent foray into the world of martial arts and Being Extremely Ripped, as well as the related Cage Fight debacle in which fellow billionaire Elon Musk challenged Zuck to a mano-a-mano duel. Musk basically worked like a one-man PR engine for Zuck, who came out of the ordeal looking like the only adult in the room.
Call it the child-gazillionaire-in-a-hoodie-to-privacy-dystopia-ghoul-to-goofy-MMA-dude-who's-not-Elon-Musk pipeline. But all that said, it's worth remembering that Zuck is still the same billionaire who owns a massive chunk of our digital lives, and thus still wields massive power — and according to Ek, those older versions of his ol' pal Zuckerberg haven't gone away.
"There's still some of the old Mark," Ek told Forbes, "where he is betting on things even though everyone tells him 'this is never gonna work.'"
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