Social media philosophy blog
Monday August 21st 2017

Zuckerberg’s law of information sharing

What does it really mean to “share information” in the 2010s? In 2008 Facebook innovator Mark Zuckerberg made the prediction that: “I would expect that next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before. That means that people are using Facebook, and the applications and the ecosystem, more and more.” This prediction, allowed the New York Times to jokingly dub this the “Zuckerberg’s law of information sharing” as a paraphrase to Moore’s law (predicting the doubling of the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit every two years) (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/06/zuckerbergs-law-of-information-sharing/).

Zuckerberg’s law of information sharing is no joke. Looking at the official Facebook statistics, the development has actually been much more dramatic. At the end of its first year, 2004, Facebook reached almost 1,000,000 users. One year later day had more than 5.5 million. With the exception of another 400% increase 2006-2007, there’s been a steady doubling of membership figures each year. In 2010 Facebook reached more than 500 million users. Of these, 50% are logged in on any given day. Altogether, Facebook users spend 700,000,000,000 min. per month on Facebook. It’s probably unrealistic that Facebook will continue to double in membership numbers during the coming years. However, the figure of minutes per month will be just as interesting to follow. Naturally, Facebook is only one of several platforms for information sharing.

Seeing that Zuckerberg’s law carries some validity, what does it really mean for us as a species? It seems to signal many things. I would like to suggest that it is important to make a distinction between the sharing of creativity, opinions and identity. Unfortunately, these tend to blend into each other.

Concerning the sharing of creativity, there is an element of emancipation, humanity being set free through sophisticated social technologies. Clay Shirky reasons quite fittingly about the “cognitive surplus” of the masses that now finally can be set loose for creative means. Increased information sharing is therefore an indicator of connectivity allowing new forms of creativity.

Information sharing can also include exchanges of opinion as we discuss politics, arts, trends etc. What politics, films, music do I like? Which kind of communities can I join in these interests?

With the sharing of identity, it is the self of the individual that is the object for discussion and disclosure. Who am I,? Who are my friends? What is my politics? What is my sexuality? What are my ambitions in life? Etc.

Information sharing is deceptive as, once again, these three blend into each other. We think that we are only sharing creative products or opinions on politics, but as a byproduct we are surely sharing identity. In a sense, we are tagging our identities, making these searchable. Most social media applications are built upon the Google driven idea of producing free resources that are paid by large scale advertisement projects (AdWords, AdSense and DoubleClick). These kinds of projects have tended to move from a traditional idea of advertising the trademark, to data mining in order to aggregate information about the user and match the right individual with personalized commercial content. Information sharing is therefore the most important product for Internet development. In other words, the cognitive surplus is being used to finance both Google and Facebook. It is our tagging of ourselves that corporations need in order to better sell their products to us.

Zuckerberg’s law of information sharing is no joke. It has been observed that Moore’s law, first formulated in 1965, actually have served as a driver for technological development. Both hardware and software produces use it to plan ahead, knowing how to upsize the volume of long-term projects. How can Zuckerberg’s law of information sharing be used for strategic planning?

Reader Feedback

One Response to “Zuckerberg’s law of information sharing”

  1. Jörgen says:

    Interesting thoughts. I have been working in a similar direction. Expressed in the concepts I use, people share “social metadata” as a way to coordinate personal and social identities (http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a907447270) creating an “economy of regard” (Offer, 1997), which operates on a combination of social and market logic.

Leave a Reply