In 2010 my book “Billionaire by Chance” was published. The establishment of Facebookwhich was soon filmed under the title The Social Network. I would never be in that back then Sense I would one day come back to two characters in this story: Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, the identical twins who fought with Mark Zuckerberg and contested the origins of one of the most powerful companies in the world.
In the world where billionaire appeared by chance, Facebook the revolution, and Mark Zuckerberg the revolutionary. He overturned the social order, the way people treated each other, got to know each other, communicated, fell in love and lived together. The Winklevoss brothers were perfect opponents: buttoned-up »Harvardians«, privileged spacks, who in many ways and quite obviously represented the »establishment«. Things look different now. Mark Zuckerberg is a well established name. Facebook is omnipresent and dominates large parts of the Internet (despite constant scandals, which revolve around stolen user data, fake news and political manipulation, among other things). Meanwhile, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss have surprisingly reappeared in the news as leaders of an entirely new digital revolution. I don't miss the irony of it all. Zuckerberg and the twins switched roles of rebellion and empire, but not only that. My book and the resulting film canonized an image of the twins that urgently needs revision.
Become a billionaire: in the right place at the right time
In my opinion, it is no coincidence that Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss were in the right place at the right time twice. In literature, as in life, there is seldom a second act. In the case of the Winklevoss twins, it looks as if the second act will sooner or later overshadow the first. Bitcoin and the technology behind it have the potential to turn the internet upside down. Like Facebook was developed so that our social relationships could move from the physical world to the internet, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin were developed for a financial world that today functions largely online. The tech behind Bitcoin is not a fad, bubble, or trick. It represents a fundamental paradigm shift that will eventually change everything.
February 22, 2008. Twentieth floor of an unremarkable office tower on the edge of San Francisco's financial district. The usual cubes cut from glass, steel and concrete, air-conditioned, brightly lit cubes. Eggshell-colored walls, office beige carpets. Neon tubes that crossed the tic-tac-toe grid of the false ceilings. Glubbering water dispensers, conference tables with chrome strips, adjustable leatherette chairs. It was just after three on a Friday afternoon. Tyler Winklevoss was standing in front of a floor-to-ceiling window with a view of a pincushion made of similar office buildings that were stuck in the midday mist. He tried to drink filter water from a paper-thin, disposable cup without spilling too much of it on his tie. After so many days, months, oh what! - Years ago the tie was hardly necessary. The longer this torture dragged on, the more likely it was that he would eventually show up in his Olympic rowing jacket for the next endless session. He managed to taste the water just before the mug gave way under his fingers, and the trickle missed his tie but soaked the sleeve of his shirt. He threw the mug in a trash can by the window and shook out the wet cuff. “That is also on the list. Paper cups in the shape of ice cream cones. Which sadist just made it up? "" Maybe the one who invented this lighting. I've been two steps browner since they put us on this floor. I bet purgatory is made of neon lights. ”
Position war: On the way to world domination
Tyler's brother Cameron sat on two of the leatherette armchairs at the far end of the room, his long legs resting on the edge of a rectangular conference table. He was wearing a blazer but no tie. One of his size 48 leather shoes was standing dangerously close to the screen of Tyler's open laptop, but Tyler looked over it. The day had been long. Tyler knew: the boredom was intentional. An out-of-court settlement was different from a legal battle. The latter was a positional war in which two parties fought their way to victory - what mathematicians and economists would call a zero-sum game. Trials had ups and downs, but primal forces lurked beneath the surface; it was essentially war. It was different with an arbitration procedure. If it was well managed, there were no winners or losers, just two parties compromised and now, as they said, "dividing the child." Arbitration didn't feel like war, but more like a very long bus ride that only ended when everyone was so tired of the landscape that they could agree on a destination.
"Strictly speaking," Tyler said, turning back to the window and the familiar gray-gray of Northern California's afternoon, "we're not the ones in purgatory." As soon as the lawyers were out, Tyler and Cameron went out of their way in order not to deal with her case. It was different at first. At first, the feeling of anger and cheating had been so great that they could hardly think of anything else. But as the weeks turned into months, they realized that anger is not conducive to sanity. The lawyers kept saying that they had to trust the system. So when they were alone, they talked about something other than what brought them here, if possible.
Like Dante in the circle of hell
The fact that they came to speak of medieval literature, more precisely to Dante's idea of the different circles of hell, was a sign of the softening of avoidance tactics. Her trust in the system had apparently led her to a Dantesque hell circle. After all, they had some distraction. When he was growing up in Connecticut, Tyler and Cameron had been obsessed with Latin. When there were no courses available for them in the final year, they wrestled a seminar on Latin from the Middle Ages, which the head teacher of Latin, a Jesuit priest, conducted. Together the brothers and the priest translated the Confessions of St. Augustine and other medieval writings. Dante hadn't written his most famous work in Latin, but Tyler and Cameron knew enough Italian to jestle the inferno: water dispensers, fluorescent lights, whiteboards ... lawyers. “Actually,” said Tyler, “we're in the limbus. He is in the purgatory. We haven't done anything wrong. ”
Suddenly there was a knock. One of her own lawyers, Peter Calamari, was the first to enter. His high hairline framed a protruding forehead and a too small, soft chin. The palm-pattern shirt was sloppy in the waistband of a pair of jeans that was so big that he walked in it weirdly. Tyler wouldn't have been surprised if the label was still on it. Worse, Calamari really wore sandals. Probably bought where he got his jeans from. The mediator came in behind the lawyer. Antonio "Tony" Piazza cut a much more impressive figure. He was slim, almost skinny, and flawlessly dressed in a suit and tie. His graying hair was short and neatly shaved, his cheeks appropriately tanned.
The master of meditation
In the press, Piazza was considered the "master of mediation". He had successfully resolved more than four thousand complicated disagreements, supposedly had a photographic memory and was also a martial arts expert - he thought he had learned from aikido how to channel aggressions into something productive. Piazza was never tired of getting. He was actually the perfect bus driver for this seemingly endless journey. Before the door closed behind the two lawyers, Cameron had taken his feet off the table. "Did he consent?" The question was addressed to Piazza. In the past few weeks, Calamari, a partner in the swanky Quinn Emanuel law firm, had seemed more like a messenger between them and the aikido master. With his loose jeans and sandals, he was looking for a connection to Silicon Valley, but in Cameron's eyes the lawyer made a joke of it.
Actually, he shouldn't be here at all. Calamari represented Rick Werder Jr., who was actually overseeing the case and had to cancel at the last minute to instead assist a company in the $ 2 billion bankruptcy process. Although the fate of the Winklevoss case rested solely on his shoulders, Werder had not come to the arbitration, the all-important moment of the case. Probably the deal he was chasing seemed bigger and better. The twins had hired Quinn Emanuel to join their legal team when the preliminary investigation ended and the trial was about to begin. Founded in 1986 by John B. Quinn, the company was known for its tough litigation attorneys who dealt exclusively with business disputes and arbitration. The law firm had done pioneering work by dispensing with a formal dress code - unheard of in the world of posh law firms. This innovation was to blame for Calamari's fashionable write-off. "He didn't refuse," said Piazza, "but he has concerns." Tyler looked at his brother. The proposal they made had originally been Cameron's idea. After all that lawyers' back and forth - with Piazza in the middle, the silvery sphinx looking for points of contact - Cameron had wondered if all the fuss couldn't be left out. They were actually three students who had met in the cafeteria not so long ago. Couldn't there be just three of you, no lawyers, and talk about the matter? "What concerns?" Asked Cameron. Piazza hesitated. "Safety concerns." It took Tyler a moment to understand what the man was saying. His brother rose from the chair. "He thinks we're going to punch him?" Asked Cameron. "Really?" Tyler felt his cheeks flush. "That's a joke, is not it?"
Her lawyer approached soothingly. "What matters is that apart from the security concerns, he can have the idea." "Seriously," Tyler said. 'He thinks we're going to beat him up? In the middle of arbitration? An arbitration attorney's office. ”Piazza's face remained motionless, but his voice dropped - in such a calming tone that you could fall asleep. 'Let's stick to it. In theory, he agreed to the meeting. It's all about the details. ”“ Do you want to chain us to the water dispenser? ”Cameron asked. “Does he feel safer then?” “It won't be necessary. At the end of the hall is a meeting room with glass walls. The meeting can take place there. Only one of you goes into the one-to-one conversation. The rest of us stay outside and watch. ”It was completely absurd. Tyler felt like he was being treated like a wild animal. Security concerns. The word felt like it came from him. It sounded like something only he would say. Maybe it was a trick too; that it was physically safer for him to speak to only one of them was almost as ridiculous as the idea that they would want to beat him up, but maybe he thought he had some intellectual advantage in a one-to-one conversation .
The most surreal moment in life
The twins felt that he disliked her from the start because of her looks. For him, they had always been the coolest people on campus. Stupid sports cannons who couldn't even program, who had to have their website built by a nerd. A website that only he, the young genius, could have invented - or rather: should have invented. Because if they had been the inventors, they would have invented them. According to this logic, it was clear, of course, that they would punch him in as soon as they had him in front of them. Tyler closed his eyes and collected himself. Then he shrugged. "Cameron goes in." His brother had always been the softer, less alpha animal, more willing to bend when bending was the only choice. This was undoubtedly the case here. "Like in a tiger cage," Cameron said as they followed Piazza and the lawyer out into the hall. “Hold the stun gun at the ready. If you see me going to his throat, do me a favor and aim at the blazer. It belongs to my brother. ”Neither lawyer nor conciliator showed the slightest amusement.
When Cameron Winklevoss walked into the glass case forty minutes later, it was one of the most surreal moments in his life. Mark Zuckerberg was already seated at the long, rectangular table in the center of the room. At six feet tall, the billionaire appeared to be enthroned on an extra-high seat cushion. A little embarrassed, Cameron closed the glass door behind him; on the other side of the window, he saw Tyler and the lawyer take their seats. Piazza could be seen further down the hall, behind him were Zuckerberg's lawyers, an army of suits. He knew most of them; He would never have missed Neel Chatterjee of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, who was so eager to care for his precious clients (and so suspicious of everything the twins had to say about him) that he attended a panel discussion attended by the twins were invited to an Internet conference in 2008, had sat in the audience, probably to hear what they said.
uniebook is launched
Chatterjee and the rest of the lawyers had notepads out, and Cameron wondered what they were going to write down. The glass wall made a soundproof impression and none of those present could, to his knowledge, read lips. The conversation should take place between him and Zuckerberg: no mediators, no lawyers, no listeners, no meddlers. Zuckerberg didn't look up as Cameron walked to the other end of the conference table. The strange chill that felt Cameron had nothing to do with the overzealous air conditioning. It was the first time in four years that he had seen his former Harvard fellow student again. Cameron first met Zuckerberg in October 2003 in the Kirkland cafeteria. He, Tyler and her boyfriend Divya Narendra sat down with him to discuss the social network they'd built over the past year. Over the next three months, the four had met several times in Zuckerberg's dorm room and discussed their project in over fifty emails. But without the twins and Narendra knowing it, Zuckerberg had secretly started working on another social network. Their domain thefacebookHe had registered .com on January 11, 2004, four days before their third meeting on January 15.
And three weeks later, on February 4, 2004, he had thefacebook.com launched. Cameron, Tyler and Divya only found out about it from the university newspaper, the Harvard Crimson. Cameron then confronted Zuckerberg by email. Zuckerberg replied, “If you want to talk about it, I would be willing to meet you alone. Let me know ... ”Cameron hadn't agreed to that, because his trust seemed irrevocably destroyed; what good would an argument with someone who acted like this? In Cameron's eyes, all they had left was to rely on the system - initially by appealing to the administration to have Harvard Rector Larry Summers intervene and enforce the code of honor that, according to the student handbook, should determine how people work together at the university. When that didn't work, they'd reluctantly turned to justice - and now, four long years later, here they were ... Cameron had reached the table and let his oversized body sink into one of the chairs before finally looking up and an embarrassed one Smile hinted at. It was incredibly difficult to judge someone who didn't have any recognizable expressions on their faces, but Cameron said there was a hint of nervousness in the way Zuckerberg rocked forward and crossed his feet under the table, a hint of human emotion. Surprisingly, Zuckerberg wasn't wearing his signature gray hoodie; evidently he was taking the matter seriously by now. Zuckerberg nodded to Cameron and mumbled a kind of greeting. For the next ten minutes, it was mainly Cameron who was talking. He started with a peace offer. He congratulated Mark on his successes in the few years after leaving Harvard. For the conversion and expansion of thefacebook.com - an initially small, exclusive community of networked Harvard students - to Facebook, a global phenomenon that first spread from university to university, then from country to country, and first attracted millions, then billions of users who disclosed their private and intimate life in words and pictures. In the meantime, this network comprised more than a fifth of all people on earth and continued to grow unchecked.
The Harvard Connection
Cameron backed the obvious with the obvious: He, Tyler, and Divya firmly believed that Facebook grew out of their idea, from a website that was first called Harvard Connection and later renamed ConnectU. It had been a dedicated social network designed to make it easier for college students to connect with one another. Cameron, Tyler, and Divya had come across the Harvard Connection because they had become frustrated with increasingly crowded campus life. The first year was a big melting pot. In the first week Divya had run into Cameron at Harvard Yard and invited him to play electric guitar in his dorm room. From that day on they were close friends. But over time, these random social collisions had become less frequent as everyone was increasingly busy. It was not easy to expand the circle of friends beyond the boundaries of your own dormitory, your own sports team or your own subject.
The twins and Divya saw this as a grievance and they set about rectifying it. Harvard Connection or ConnectU was to become a virtual campus where student life could flourish without the physical barriers and impenetrable social barriers of the offline world. An eternal freshman, only that everyone would be older and wiser and the youth would not be wasted on the young. In the spring of 2003 the code was almost ready; however, the original programmer, Sanjay Mavinkurve, was just graduating with the prospect of a job at Google in California. So the twins and Divya had to hire someone else to complete the website. Victor Gao worked on it over the summer, but at the beginning of the semester his bachelor thesis was too busy and he had to stop doing it. He put in contact with a second year computer scientist who seemed interested in commercial projects. At that time, the ConnectU software was designed to classify users based on their email address. For example, if someone registered with an address ending in harvard.edu, he or she would have been automatically assigned to the Harvard network. This should avoid the mess that arises when everyone is packed into one network. Like a matryoshka doll, ConnectU was supposed to be a network of smaller sub-networks that also contained networks of sub-networks and so on down to the individual.
Elites among themselves
Divya and the twins had set up ConnectU after they realized that the email address could not only identify a person like a digital ID, but also provide information about their social environment in real life. The Harvard administrator gave email addresses with the Harvard domain only to Harvard students. Goldman Sachs only gave addresses with @ goldmansachs.com to Goldman Sachs employees. If you had such an email address, you probably belonged to these circles in some way in real life. This design should give the ConnectU network a level of trustworthiness that other social networks such as Friendster or MySpace did not have. The users should be arranged so that they can find each other better and get to know each other in a more meaningful way. This was exactly the type of construction that the project had, which was to catapult the computer scientist they commissioned into world fame and domination over the Internet a short time later. In the eyes of the twins, the only networks Mark Zuckerberg knew about were computer networks. From their own social dealings with him, they had the impression that Mark preferred to communicate with machines rather than with people. Seen in this light, it was much more plausible to see the world's largest social network as an offspring of an unequal pairing between the twins and Zuckerberg, rather than Zuckerberg's own intellectual child. The idea of the lonely genius who creates brilliant inventions all by himself was a film cliché, a Hollywood myth. In reality, the largest companies in the world were started by dynamic duos: Jobs and Wozniak,
Brin and Page, Gates and Allen, the list was endless and, from Cameron's point of view, should have included Zuckerberg and Winklevoss. Or Winklevoss and Zuckerberg. As he sat at the conference table, Cameron had to admit to himself that Zuckerberg's accomplishments were truly impressive. Whatever he had taken from them, he had turned it into a revolution. Somehow that thin, pale boy with the cheap haircut had managed to change the world. And now Cameron smeared that on his bread. He affirmed that Zuckerberg's creation was incredible and represented an innovation that occurs only once in every generation. When Cameron fell silent, Zuckerberg added his congratulations. He was genuinely impressed that Cameron and Tyler had won the US rowing championships as students and that they would be part of the US national team at the Beijing Olympics later that summer. Cameron was strangely reminiscent of the shy boy they'd met in the dining room. A socially inhibited computer freak who was happy to have even briefly dealt with them. Cameron tried to dispel dark memories as he accepted the compliments. He tried not to think about the feeling that had come over him as he read the article on Zuckerberg's website. In the meantime, the job title read Zuckerberg on thefacebook.com said, "Founder, Supreme Commander, and Public Enemy." Thief would have been fine too, thought Cameron. But such lines of thought were of little help. None of that mattered now.
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