Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, with the help of Stephen Hawking and Mark Zuckerburg, plans to launch a fleet of nano-probes1 toward a star close to our solar system, Alpha Centuri. The craft, outfitted with lightsails, will be pushed along to their destination in just 20 years by powerful lasers on Earth.
In the last decade and a half, rapid technological advances have opened up the possibility of light-powered space travel at a significant fraction of light speed. This involves a ground-based light beamer pushing ultra-light nanocrafts - miniature space probes attached to lightsails - to speeds of up to 100 million miles an hour. Such a system would allow a flyby mission to reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years from launch, and beam home images of possible planets, as well as other scientific data such as analysis of magnetic fields.
Breakthrough Starshot aims to demonstrate proof of concept for ultra-fast light-driven nanocrafts, and lay the foundations for a first launch to Alpha Centauri within the next generation. Along the way, the project could generate important supplementary benefits to astronomy, including solar system exploration and detection of Earth-crossing asteroids.
The Atlantic and the NY Times have more information on the initiative.
Facebook recently went over a billion users served. In an interview with Businessweek, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned a conversation he had with Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, where Andreessen mentioned the likely only other companies with a billion users are Coca Cola and McDonald’s. What does it feel like to have a billion users?
It feels like an honor. We get the honor of building things that a billion people use. I mean, there’s no core need. It isn’t a core human need to use Facebook. It’s a core human need to stay connected with the people you care about. The need to open up and connect is such a deep part of what makes us human. Being in a position where we are the company—or one of the companies—that can play a role in delivering that service is just this … it’s an honor.
The interviewers also asked about how Facebook gets its next billion users and, while Zuckerberg demurred somewhat, Quartz had a look at the version of FB designed for countries without wide smartphone adoption. It runs on WAP and is called Facebook Zero (just like Coke Zero, OMG). Users of the text-only FB are not charged for the data used, and the article posits FB is making the gateway drug argument to the telecoms:
This is because, for the telecoms networks, free Facebook represents a solution to an ever-present existential threat. Their first subscribers were relatively rich; the ones they are gaining now are ever poorer. So the revenue per user is shrinking. At the same time, the amount of data being pushed through their networks is increasing, and customers are demanding faster connection speeds, pushing up the cost of infrastructure. The networks are looking for ways to get more users, and make more money from each one of them.
“The fact is that Facebook has made a compelling argument to operators, which is ‘You should give Facebook away [to consumers] for free,’” says Eagle. “I don’t know how Facebook is making that case, but if I were Facebook, the argument I’d make is that Facebook is one of the most addictive things on the internet. If you have someone try out Facebook for the first time, it might lead them to want to try the rest of the web, and a lot of these other services they can charge for.”
This doesn’t necessarily jive with something Zuckerberg said in the Businessweek interview, and has said numerous times in the past. Facebook doesn’t want to be the gateway drug to the internet, it wants to be the internet.
The whole vision around News Feed was it should be like a newspaper and shouldn’t just be a list of posts your friends are making. I mean we should be able to really show you interesting trends and things that are happening. There are already trillions of connections between friend requests and all the content that’s being pushed into the system. At some point, that will start to be a better map of how you navigate the Web than the traditional link structure of the Web. I think there’s an opportunity to really build something interesting there.
Writing for New York magazine, Henry Blodget explains how a young startup founder and college dropout became the CEO of a soon-to-be $100 billion company.
When talking about Zuckerberg’s most valuable personality trait, a colleague jokingly invokes the famous Stanford marshmallow tests, in which researchers found a correlation between a young child’s ability to delay gratification — devour one treat right away, or wait and be rewarded with two — with high achievement later in life. If Zuckerberg had been one of the Stanford scientists’ subjects, the colleague jokes, Facebook would never have been created: He’d still be sitting in a room somewhere, not eating marshmallows.
More than a year ago, Facebook engineer Andrew Bosworth wrote a post about how best to work with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when first working with Zuck is feeling that they can’t push back. As long as I have been at Facebook, I have been impressed with how much he prefers to be part of an ongoing discussion about the product as opposed to being its dictator. There are a number of exceptions to this, of course, but that comes with the territory. In those instances where he is quite sure what he wants, I find he is quite good at making his decisions clear and curtailing unneeded debate.
Barring that, you should feel comfortable noting potential problems with a proposal of his or, even better, suggesting alternative solutions. You shouldn’t necessarily expect to change his mind on the spot, but I find it is common for discussions to affect his thinking over a longer time period. Don’t necessarily expect acknowledgment for your role in moving the discussion forward; getting the product right should be its own reward. If you do that, you’ll find you are invited back more and more to the debate.
Facebook is certainly an interesting company…they’re a large company that appears to operate much like a small company. Will be interesting to see if they can keep that up as they get larger, go public, etc.
This is the contemporary take on the guy-meets-girl-at-party story. Guy isn’t particularly interested in girl but at some later point starts surreptitiously taking photos of her and posting them to a secret blog. Girl finds out, isn’t creeped out at all. Boy doesn’t feel shame at girl’s discovery, only that it ruined his creative outlet before “he might have gotten better at it or something”. Girl decides to interview boy for her communications class. You know, completely normal.
She messaged Walker through Facebook, and at first he seemed receptive. “He thought it was funny,” said Merker. But after an initial show of interest, Walker got skittish, canceling and rescheduling the interview repeatedly. When Merker finally sat down with him, it was only after she had managed to catch him off-guard, saying she was already in his neighborhood and offering to meet at a bar.
Walker had one condition: he wanted to do the interview “in character” as the persona he had established through the blog. That would mean interviewing Merker, too; after all, any blogger who had devoted an entire Tumblr to a single person would certainly take the opportunity to directly question his subject.
You know when Mark Zuckerberg says stuff like privacy doesn’t matter and Facebook makes formerly private information public without notice and all the tech pundits (most of whom are older than Zuck) go bananas tearing out their hair about how stupid and crazy that is? Now you know where Zuck and Facebook are coming from.
From a New York magazine profile of some young Stanford hackers, a fun Mark Zuckerberg anecdote:
Zuckerberg doesn’t code much for Facebook anymore, the same way that Steve Jobs never hand-coded software for the iPhone. But, as the Groups team was adding the finishing touches to its product, Zuckerberg said he wanted to write a few lines. “Everybody was like, Ohhhh, Zuck’s gonna write code,” says Feross. Someone set up an easy bug for him to fix-adding a link to a picture, or something-and he went to work. Five minutes passed. Twenty minutes. An hour. “It took him like two hours to do something that would take one of us who’s an engineer like five minutes,” says Feross. It was like a retired slugger coming back for one last at-bat, for old time’s sake, and finding he’d lost more of his game than he’d reckoned. Still, he got props from Feross & Co. for getting his hands dirty.
The New Yorker has a trio of interesting articles in their most recent issue for the discerning web/technology lady or gentlemen. First is a lengthy profile of Mark Zuckerberg, the quite private CEO of Facebook who doesn’t believe in privacy.
Zuckerberg may seem like an over-sharer in the age of over-sharing. But that’s kind of the point. Zuckerberg’s business model depends on our shifting notions of privacy, revelation, and sheer self-display. The more that people are willing to put online, the more money his site can make from advertisers. Happily for him, and the prospects of his eventual fortune, his business interests align perfectly with his personal philosophy. In the bio section of his page, Zuckerberg writes simply, “I’m trying to make the world a more open place.”
The second is a profile of Tavi Gevinson (sub. required), who you may know as the youngster behind Style Rookie.
Tavi has an eye for frumpy, “Grey Gardens”-inspired clothes and for arch accessories, and her taste in designers runs toward the cerebral. From the beginning, her blog had an element of mystery: is it for real? And how did a thirteen-year-old suburban kid develop such a singular look? Her readership quickly grew to fifty thousand daily viewers and won the ear of major designers.
And C, John Seabrook has a profile of James Dyson (sub. required), he of the unusual vacuum cleaners, unusual hand dryers, and the unusual air-circulating fan.
In the fall of 2002, the British inventor James Dyson entered the U.S. market with an upright vacuum cleaner, the Dyson DC07. Dyson was the product’s designer, engineer, manufacturer, and pitchman. The price was three hundred and ninety-nine dollars. Not only did the Dyson cost much more than most machines sold at retail but it was made almost entirely out of plastic. In the most perverse design decision of all, Dyson let you see the dirt as you collected it, in a clear plastic bin in the machine’s midsection.