Social Media's Person Of The Year Networks In '404 Not Found' Territory

Chinese netizens poke fun at the spectacle of Mark Zuckerberg being greeted in a country that bans his Web site. The government's welcoming banner auspiciously reads: Warm welcome to China - the founder of the website '404 Not found.' For a man lauded recently by Time Magazine and whose life is portrayed in an award-winning movie, what motivated the CEO of Facebook to visit the land of the dragon?

There's been a lot of speculation as to whether or not Zuckerberg's Great Chinese Adventure was for business or pleasure. Meeting with just about every top technology executive in the land with his girlfriend Priscilla Chan in tow, is he chasing the one chunk of the Earth's population that has eluded his monolithic social network?

Knowing that Facebook is censored in the country, this did not stop Zuckerberg from visiting with Charles Chao, CEO of Sina Corp and Weibo, a leading Chinese Web portal and Twitter clone. This was followed up with a meeting with Wang Jianzhous, chairman of the the state-owned telecom operator China Mobile, and a visit with Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, the company's answer to Google in China.

When I approached Kaiser Kuo, director of international communications at Baidu for insight regarding Zuckerberg's visit, he noted that the "story deserved to die on day one and not stay in the news as long as it has."

And perhaps Kuo is on target. Zuckerberg has long had a fascination with China, having learned Mandarin and studied its history and culture for some time. But then again, there is also reason to believe that Zuckerberg's desire to control the flow of "open" communication on the Web could be targeting China to gain access to its 1.35 billion people - who are currently using other social networks condoned and controlled by the state.

In a graphic novel about Facebook, titled, Facebucks & Dumb F*cks this premise is played out in a battle of wills between Zuckerberg (aka Z-Man) and the Chinese government as if Facebook (aka Facebucks) was a competing sovereign state.

Page from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novelPage from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel
At a talk this past fall to aspiring entrepreneurs in Palo Alto, Californina, Zuckerberg was quoted saying that he was hoping to figure out the "right partnerships that we need in China to succeed on our terms." While he couldn't be reached for comment about his China trip, he has questioned in the past:  "How can you connect the world if you leave out China's population of more than a billion."

The graphic novel story continues with Zuckerberg figuring out that one of the ways to fight the control of Chinese censorship is to tag every object in the world with one of his network's LIKE buttons.

Page from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novelPage from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel
However when China fights back, Z-Man and his accomplice kidd millennium are at a loss as to how to deal with a nation as ferocious and powerful as the Chinese.

Page from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novelPage from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel
The story continues to unveil the Web in a state of evolution. When social media, or Web 2.0 transitions into Web 3.0 and semantic technology, Z-Man assures the world that he will be right there driving the bus. The surprise ending provides the reader as to how he eventually deals with the Chinese to accomplish this monumental task.

While the book is just as speculative as the motivation behind Zuckerberg's recent visit to China, it will be interesting to see if and when Time's Person of the Year achieves his ultimate goal of connecting the world, via Facebook.

In the short term, however, he will need to figure out how Chinese netizens can join his network without receiving the standard "Error 404: File not found" message. Perhaps before his visit ends, he will have come up with a solution.

Page from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novelPage from Facebucks & Dumb F*cks graphic novel