Zuckberberg was chosen "for connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them ... and for changing how we all live our lives."
But was Assange robbed?
The photo TIME picked for Zuckerberg is the first thing we noticed in reviewing the article, now posted online at TIME.com. Those eyes! That creepy stare! It seems that the photo may end up being as controversial as the winner itself. TIME obviously wanted to imply something about Facebook's privacy issues by choosing a photo where the young CEO seems to gaze right into your soul, as if he knew all your deepest, darkest secrets.
Facebook's Privacy Issues Dominated Half the Year
But the photo may be an appropriate choice, given the context. Facebook had a tough year when it came to privacy, thanks to a long-running privacy debacle that began in late December/early January, where a host of forced, opt-out (not in) changes were switched on, affecting all user photos, videos, links and even status updates. Automatically, seemingly overnight, those items went from being privately shared to becoming public, unless you, as a user, manually switched them back to private.
Millions, of course, didn't, either not knowing or not caring about the impact of that choice. We would argue that it's the former, given the embarrassments published daily to youropenbook.org, a Facebook public search tool that reminds you how "Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life. Whether you want to or not."
And with Facebook's launch of Instant Personalization, a feature that let Facebook partners immediately tap into user profile data to customize websites to your needs, Facebook even came under scrutiny from federal regulators in the U.S. April. E.U. regulators weren't happy either.
By May, the debate reached a boiling point, leading Facebook's CEO to address the issue via press conference. At the event, Zuckerberg announced that the changes would be rolled back, would ?retroactively apply to all content and the company would introduce new, simpler privacy controls.
By doing so, Facebook seemed to have squelch the debate itself for now, but the damage to the company's reputation was done. The world was clued into Facebook's agenda at last. Simply put the agenda is: openness, openness and more openness.
2010: The Year of Openness
Another man who would argue for openness is Wikileaks' Juilan Assange. As TIME's managing editor Rick Stengel explained in an editor's note:
"Zuckerberg and Assange are two sides of the same coin. Both express a desire for openness and transparency. While Assange attacks big institutions and governments through involuntary transparency with the goal of disempowering them, Zuckerberg enables individuals to voluntarily share information with the idea of empowering them. Assange sees the world as filled with real and imagined enemies; Zuckerberg sees the world as filled with potential friends. Both have a certain disdain for privacy: in Assange's case because he feels it allows malevolence to flourish; in Zuckerberg's case because he sees it as a cultural anachronism, an impediment to a more efficient and open connection between people."
Assange Was Robbed!, Cry Journos
But who had more impact on the world this year? Assange with his political disruption? Or the CEO of a social networking site?
Several notable journalists disagree with TIME's decision and Michael Calderone rounded up a few of the more memorable comments, here on Yahoo's The Cutline blog:
- "The will of the people is fulfilled," wrote the New York Times' Dave Itzkoff. "Wait, no it isn't."
- "Once again Time editors demonstrate POTY no longer for the person who had the greatest impact on the year," wrote ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper, asking if "Jersey Shore" star Snooki will get the nod next year.
- Slate Group editor-in-chief Jacob Weisberg said that it was "gutless of Time not to name Assange."
- "Hmmm, in 25 years, will this make sense?" asked NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd.
- Alexi Mostrous, a Times of London reporter covering WikiLeaks, said that Time must consider Assange "too controversial" because WikiLeaks "certainly had greater impact than Facebook this year."
What do you think? Was Assange robbed? Or does Zuckberberg deserve the accolade?