The story of how a noted tech venture capitalist, an early mentor to Mark Zuckerberg and investor in his company, woke up to the serious damage Facebook was doing to our society and set out to try to stop it.
Zucked is thus a candid and highly entertaining explanation of how and why a man who spent decades picking tech winners and cheering his industry on has been carried to the shore of social activism ... The story of Facebook has been told many times before, but McNamee does a superb job of contextualizing its rise within the proper technological history ... The most stirring parts of the book are those in which McNamee makes the angry but measured argument that 'social media has enabled personal views that had previously been kept in check by social pressure' ... McNamee’s book is not merely the cri de coeur of a forsworn tech optimist zinged by moral conscience. It’s also a robust and helpful itemization of the ways Facebook could be brought to heel.
Anyone looking for a systematic treatment of Silicon Valley’s political and economic power will probably be disappointed. Zucked does dabble in the recent history of Silicon Valley and the country to explain how both have turned libertarian, substituting civic engagement at the heart of a vibrant democracy with user engagement at the heart of Facebook’s outsize balance sheet. Such analytical efforts, however, mostly stay on the surface. McNamee is much more convincing on the inner workings of Silicon Valley ... Not all of these parts [in the book] are equally enjoyable. McNamee’s penchant for sharing the life stories of his latest associates and his constant name-dropping often get in the way ... McNamee doesn’t quite provide answers [to what the future of the Internet holds], either, but we can hope that Zucked will trigger just the kind of debate needed to find them.
The best and most useful parts of Zucked, I find, are those that draw on Mr. McNamee’s lengthy experience as a Silicon Valley investor to explain exactly how and why today’s tech giants compile troves of detailed information on their users and what the political consequences of their frequently amoral efforts may be ... Facebook makes us more like what we already are and therefore less inclined to tolerate those ever-stranger beings on the other side. This isn’t an original insight, but Mr. McNamee expresses it fluently—he understands the business model from the inside.