How Facebook helps the rich get richer

Prof. Trump charts

Take a step back. What am I talking about? Facebook is today larger than the next ten largest tech companies combined, makes money from advertising, and boasts of owning nearly a third of all the online ads sold in the United States.

Does the company look mighty large to you?

A recent analysis in Variety showed that Mark Zuckerberg’s personal net worth is comparable to that of the mayors of London, Toronto, New York and San Francisco, accounting for two-thirds of the world’s population.

He’s made a stratospheric leap, largely thanks to his decisions to spend millions buying his own apps. Maybe that was his plan all along.

No doubt Zuckerberg was just trying to boost his app value when he spent $2 billion for Instagram in 2012, or when he shelled out $1 billion for WhatsApp in 2014. It’s easy to see why.

But the magic that has made him such a rich man (and made other tech billionaires very rich, too) actually began, famously, when the company he co-founded in his Harvard dorm room began to implement notifications and adverts into its pages in 2004.

They were cute, quick-hitting, and made the site more attractive to advertisers; more eye-catching; and importantly, more like real life, where employers, banks, schools, hospitals, banks, schools, hospitals, schools and banks often engage in brief exchanges with workers on a regular basis.

Perhaps Zuckerberg thought that these interactions would now begin to trick users into clicking on more ads and, ultimately, uploading more data, and to increase ad revenues. The message was clear. The internet was now, literally, a commercial transaction. Facebook was just helping brands and companies to connect with their customers.

So what kind of effect did it have?

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