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(History, it’s often said, doesn’t repeat—it rhymes.)Was Zuckerberg really blind to the fake news that showed up in everyone’s Facebook feeds just before the election?Did he really not see how Facebook had decisively tilted the worlds’ political axis towards the populist right?The judge noted that he had been able to separate the two by simply uninstalling the browser, and then said to Gates’ assembled lawyers, “If the process is not that simple, I’d like to have it refuted by any evidence Microsoft chooses to introduce.” Then he leaned in for the killing blow: “I want to know whether to believe my eyes.”That was the moment that the tide turned decisively against Microsoft.
Because Facebook today, in the wake of its historic stock plunge and a rising chorus of calls for the company to be regulated or even broken into pieces, looks a lot like Microsoft, 20 years ago.
A quick review of the past, through the eyes of the future: Bill Gates was 28 when Zuckerberg was born, and became the richest man in the world when Zuckerberg turned 10.
Google and others poured everything into web apps, steadily undermining the importance of Microsoft’s operating system.
And then Apple just leap-frogged Windows entirely, with the i Phone.
So will future generations regard Zuckerberg as another in a short line of tech moguls who have somehow morphed into avuncular global mascots for good? Kirkpatrick thinks the differences between Gates’ and Zuckerberg’s stories are more predictive of the future than the similarities.
He notes that “Gates was a much more mature human being” during Microsoft’s moment of crisis than Zuckerberg is now.That same year the US Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division started pursing Microsoft in earnest with the goal of breaking up what was, to most observers, an obvious monopoly.That case, , was finally put to bed in 2004—the same summer that Zuckerberg came to Silicon Valley to turn his dorm room project into a real company.It’s as if they were cloned from the same DNA: They both were born the only boy into a wealthy family.They both have doting, indulgent mothers, who believed they could do no wrong and instilled in them both a preternatural self confidence. As young teenagers both became so obsessed with computers and computing that they thought about virtually nothing else.Zuckerberg has been laying the groundwork to be a philanthropist in the Gates mold.They appeared jointly in San Francisco in September 2010 during an announcement of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to "cure, prevent or manage all disease" by the end of the century.Today Zuckerberg and Facebook are caught up in a maelstrom of the first order.It started the day after Trump won his long-shot bid for the presidency.“I mean it’s bizarre,” says David Kirkpatrick, the author of the canonical history of Facebook, and one of a handful of people who have spent many hours talking to both Gates and Zuckerberg.“There are astonishing similarities.”The historical parallels between the two men are so strong as to be uncanny—possibly even predictive.