When it comes to Facebook's relationship status, things have been complicated. After rebuffing a billion-dollar buyout offer from Yahoo in 2006, the company's founder, Mark Zuckerberg, was derided as arrogant and greedy. In 2007, though, he opened the doors of the social network to outside software developers, unleashing a tsunami of new applications and media chatter, and this time it was love.
Love or hate him, Zuckerberg has done a remarkable job of turning a dorm room hacker's project into a business juggernaut and himself into the Web 2.0 poster boy. But Zuckerberg understands the "social graph"--his term for the personal connections Facebook seeks to make use of--because he thrives there in real life. He makes and keeps friends. He seeks and takes good advice. He listens to his staff. The whiteboard geek, who talks a bit like a robot, has earned the affection and respect of a stunning array of VIPs, only some of whom stand to profit from his success. As for the big wave-off, it now looks prescient: When Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) bought a small piece of Facebook in October, the company's value was established at $15 billion.