Author Ben Mezrich on Facebook's Salacious Start

Now that the book's out, how do you think the Facebook clan will respond?
Well, my proposal was leaked all over the Internet, and Facebook was not thrilled I was writing this book. They're terrified of a book they haven't read. The book isn't negative, and though crazy stuff did go on, these kids were sophomores in college. I wanna put that on the paperback: "I understand what your fears are, but I'm a huge fan of Facebook." There's no reason a book can't be fun as well as true.

Do you think Mark Zuckerberg will read the book and think it's accurate?
I would love to get Mark alone in his room, without the flacks and without the lawyers, where he'll actually laugh and say, "Yea, that's what happened." Mark as the head of a huge company? He's not going to react like a normal person—so I think their response is a normal reaction. In a way, I'm out there fighting the good fight for Facebook—it's a clone started by geeky guys trying to get laid.

You didn't talk to Zuckerberg for the book, though. Why do you think he passed on an interview?
I talked to the Facebook people all the time, and it was like Waiting for Godot: "He might talk to you, he might not," they would say. But I think it's about control in the end. At one point, I felt like I was very close—booking tickets to California—and Facebook was well aware to whom I was talking. Mark clamped down—but a lot of other people had a lot to say.

How did you even decide to write a tell-all about Facebook?
I got this e-mail at 2 in the morning from a kid at Harvard that said, "I have a great story for you." As a writer, you hear this all the time, but I went and got a drink and Eduardo [Saverin, who worked with Zuckerberg on Facebook's inception] started telling me these horrible stories about girls, basements, and Victoria's Secret models. I knew nothing about this—but I love Facebook—so this was the story I started writing.

The book is full of anecdotes from people who feel Zuckerberg betrayed them. Does it matter to you that everyone you spent time with had an axe to grind?
Well, I'm certain all these characters had axes to grind—especially when you see a kid become a billionaire. I love that: everyone has their own point of view, and you have to pick which story you're going to believe. Personally, I don't know whether Eduardo was screwed, but he definitely feels betrayed. The Winklevoss twins feel like they had their ideas stolen from them.

Eduardo himself frames the narrative for much of the book. Has he read it?
After the Gawker piece came out, he cut me off. He was in the midst of a lawsuit with Zuckerberg, and he got nervous, I think.

After spending so much time examining the site, what do you have to say about Facebook?
I honestly believe it's the next step in human evolution. All life takes place on Facebook; it's the next thing, and I believe people underestimate Facebook—it really is the perfection of the social network. My wife is on it nine hours a day, and the next generation coming up is just so natural—I don't think kids care about privacy, the younger generation. Everybody wants to be famous.

Would you consider yourself a journalist?
I write a form of writing that's narrative nonfiction. It's a true story written as a thriller, so I make it interesting and exciting. Journalists don't get what I do. But my audience and my publisher gets that this is nonfiction. I don't run into a story with a notepad, though. Instead, I'm hanging out at a Finals club, or I'm strapping money to myself and going to Vegas. Basically, I'm re-creating every scene.

Before your book was even out, you scored a deal for a movie with Aaron Sorkin. Tell me how that happened.
Well, Kevin Spacey is one of my first readers … he had been taking the book around to studios, who had seen proposals and wanted to adapt it. It's a real stroke of luck when a guy like Aaron Sorkin gets interested. But it was strange, because he was adapting the book into a screenplay while I was still writing it. It was maybe a first for Hollywood.