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Some Ramblings - The Social Network
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla
the social network

In the internet arena, innovations are often mistaken for inventions. While Internet itself might probably be the only idea that could warrant the usage of the word 'invention', the rest of wildly imaginative and utterly utilitarian enhancements on that established framework, can only be be improvements or enhancements at best. First, it was the goods that brought in the money - devising the contraptions, manufacturing and distributing them. And then it was the era of services that became the huge draw - find the right need and provide a fitting service/solution for it. In the electronic era, the ideas that captured the public imagination and interest involved neither goods nor services. It exploited the basic human need to connect. Simply put, it catered to the senses. The tangible measure that determined how successful certain goods and services were, turned, in the internet era, into a very abstract, level of satisfaction. Applying the traditional principles of manufacturing and distribution, there should be no reason why many wildly successful internet companies are values at tens of billions of dollars, all without having anything to show for, all based on a simple likability factor. And these ideas that eventually were transformed into internet powerhouses, that they currently are, are not even unique ideas to start with - scour the internet maze and search for a particular text, facilitate people to trade their wares directly, eliminate brick and mortar selling and distributing practices, and the latest pad, keeping in touch with people. However, every one of those simple ideas is worth billions of dollars when transformed into a Google, an eBay, an Amazon, and the subject in question, a Facebook. It is the simplicity of ideas in the electronic world that attracted all the sideshow antics - plagiarism, trademark violations, corporate espionages, copyright infringements - that usually accompany successful enterprises. There aren't that many noted cases of conflicting ownership arguments when it comes to complex ideas and innovations, but when it get to the level of obvious ones - an interface here, an implementation there, a look here and a feel there - internet probably has spawned the most number of lawsuits when compared to any other industry, in the modern era, providing as many employment opportunities to the attorneys, as it is to vibrant and innovative entrepreneurs. Xerox accusing Apple for stealing their idea of Graphical User Interface, Apple suing Microsoft for stealing their point and click mouse technology in the latter's Windows platforms, Microsoft dragging Motorola to court on patent infringement over smart phone technologies - internet is crowded with a multitude of players, stepping on each other's toes and then crying hoarse and foul about it.

'The Social Network' is not so much about the birthing of the idea, as it is about the bragging rights, particularly when the rights come with a billion dollar package, wrapped with a bow tie. The movie works splendidly mainly because of the tight words and taut direction. With Aaron Sorkin taking care of the words, and Fincher finding moments of great worth amongst the deluge of dialogues, 'The Social Network' is one of the most beautifully shot conversationalist drama ever committed to celluloid. And Sorkin revels at the chance of having only talking heads in the movie - attorneys and entrepreneurs - whose only function is to talk and talk a lot. The rhythms of his dialogue replete with iambic pentameters, with every sentence running over at least a couple of minutes with not a full stop in sight anywhere, and more, spoken in a rapid fire fashion, is an utterly original invention, a creation of some one who is in love with the language and the music in the words.

Lawyer: Mr. Zuckerberg, do I have your full attention?
Mark : [stares out the window] No.
Lawyer: Do you think I deserve it?
Mark : [looks at the lawyer] What?
Lawyer: Do you think I deserve your full attention?
Mark : I had to swear an oath before we began this deposition, and I don't want to perjure myself, so I have a legal obligation to say no.
Lawyer: Okay - no. You don't think I deserve your attention.
Mark : I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try - but there's no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention - you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing.
Mark : Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

The movie doesn't concern itself with getting to the actual truth, as to whose idea it was that eventually became Facebook, as it could have as well been that every single one claiming ownership was speaking the truth, or may be everyone had only a portion of the solution, before someone stepped forward and made it a whole. The simplicity of the idea created the impossible situation, where everyone was speaking the truth, but no one was speaking the whole truth. And Sorkin sums it up aptly in the voice of Mark Zuckerberg, who now is credited solely for the creation of the site - 'If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented the Facebook' [and not sat around suing someone, goes without saying]. Except the word 'invention' sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes to simple websites, and there in lies the rub.

'Watching the paint dry' is a phrase reserved to witnessing unending dreary actions, like having to see someone read a book or look at someone typing on a computer, on the visual medium. Here is a movie that sounds like reading a book about people who spend hours together obsessing over websites, and thanks to Fincher, plays like a suspense thriller. Quite a marriage of impossible ideas, this.

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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