Commenting on Mark Zuckerberg's letter to Facebook investors

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Call it the gospel according to Mark, or the thoughts of Chairman Zuck, it is an extraordinary document.

The letter from Mark Zuckerberg which accompanied Facebook's IPO filing is rather different in tone from the mission statements issued by a conventional chief executive.

So will it inspire or terrify investors?

Let's try a bit of textual analysis:

  • Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission - to make the world more open and connected.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones The letter starts with a sentiment which could suggest we are going to hear about a non-profit organisation, aiming to help the afflicted, not a business hoping to make bumper profits.
    February 2 at 14:09pm  •  
  • We think it's important that everyone who invests in Facebook understands what this mission means to us, how we make decisions and why we do the things we do.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones So investing in Facebook isn't going to be for everyone - you've got to understand our unique way of doing business. Listen carefully....
    February 2 at 14:13pm  •  
  • The scale of the technology and infrastructure that must be built is unprecedented, and we believe this is the most important problem we can focus on.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones Connecting the world isn't going to be cheap, especially when everyone wants to upload their photos and videos every day. So we are going to be spending a lot more on data centres and that won't leave any cash for dividends.
    February 2 at 14:18pm  •  
  • We think the world's information infrastructure should resemble the social graph - a network built from the bottom up or peer-to-peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date. We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones You may have heard of my social graph, the very essence of Facebook, rather like Google's search algorithm. But let's be clear it's not just about exploiting all those user likes and dislikes for targeted advertising, it's part of our mission to change the power structures in society.
    February 2 at 14:19pm  •  
  • We think a more open and connected world will help create a stronger economy with more authentic businesses that build better products and services.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones And finally we get some mention of the economic impact of this mission to connect people and change the world. It is all about creating "authentic" businesses.
    February 2 at 14:25pm  •  
  • We believe building tools to help people share can bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government that could lead to more direct empowerment of people, more accountability for officials and better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time.

    Over time, we expect governments will become more responsive to issues and concerns raised directly by all their people rather than through intermediaries controlled by a select few.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones Facebook isn't just about sharing pictures of a boozy evening or updating your friends about your relationship status - it was the revolutionary force that helped elect Obama and inspired the Arab Spring. So listen out, governments, the times they are a changin'...
    February 2 at 14:31pm  •  
  • We're going public for our employees and our investors. We made a commitment to them when we gave them equity that we'd work hard to make it worth a lot and make it liquid, and this IPO is fulfilling our commitment. As we become a public company, we're making a similar commitment to our new investors and we will work just as hard to fulfill it.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones Our staff and investors have been looking at those huge valuations and saying isn't it time we cashed out? But don't worry - we delivered for them and now we're going to deliver for you.
    February 2 at 14:32pm  •  
  • We have cultivated a unique culture and management approach that we call the Hacker Way.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones This section on The Hacker Way is the heart of the letter, an explanation of the culture of Facebook, which you can see being expanded into a popular management book.
    February 2 at 14:40pm  •  
  • We have the words "Done is better than perfect" painted on our walls to remind ourselves to always keep shipping...
    Hacker culture is also extremely open and meritocratic. Hackers believe that the best idea and implementation should always win - not the person who is best at lobbying for an idea or the person who manages the most people.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones From a visit to Facebook's offices, I can confirm that it's true that signs like "Done is better than perfect" are on the walls. Facebook's founder is a geek - in the best sense of the word - and he has surrounded himself with similar people, setting them free to code into the night, sustained by beer and pizza. That isn't going to change.
    February 2 at 14:44pm  •  
  • We have a saying: "Move fast and break things." The idea is that if you never break anything, you're probably not moving fast enough.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones And that culture means taking risks, making mistakes and clearing up afterwards. How well that will work for a public company, where breaking things means a plunging share price, remains to be seen
    February 2 at 14:45pm  •  
  • Once again, Facebook exists to make the world more open and connected, and not just to build a company. We expect everyone at Facebook to focus every day on how to build real value for the world in everything they do.
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    Rory Cellan - Jones Back to that worrying stuff from the beginning about not just building a company. But Zuckerberg believes an open connected world will also be a very profitable place for investors in his business..
    February 2 at 14:47pm  •  
  • Thanks for taking the time to read this letter. We believe that we have an opportunity to have an important impact on the world and build a lasting company in the process. I look forward to building something great together
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    Rory Cellan - Jones Mark Zuckerberg wants Wall Street to join him in his mission to change the world. But what the IPO filing also reveals is that he will still control the majority of Facebook's shares after the company goes public. So potential investors will need to examine this letter carefully and make sure they want to buy into his vision.
    February 2 at 14:49pm  •  

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