WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has more important things to worry about, like trying to secure his release on bail from prison in Sweden. There is no celebrating in the office of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Lady Gaga is not dancing. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have one less thing to be smug about on Comedy Central, and ditto for Glenn Beck on Fox News Channel. President Barack Obama is dealing with more significant issues, like war and unemployment. Steve Jobs is gearing up for the release of the second-generation iPad. The Chilean miners are probably just happy to be alive. And, much like Assange and Obama, the unemployed American has far more significant issues to deal with.
What do all of those people have in common? They all finished ahead of Mark Zuckerberg in voting by TIME readers for its 2010 Person of the Year, yet the Facebook co-founder and CEO rebounded from finishing No. 10 on the readers’ poll and impressed the magazine’s editors enough to be named TIME 2010 Person of the Year.
Like two of our runners-up this year, Julian Assange and the Tea Party, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have a whole lot of veneration for traditional authority. In a sense, 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.