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June 28, 2013 7:29 pm
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by April Dembosky in San Francisco
Move (not so) Fast and (don’t) Break Things
Facebook prided itself in the early days on its irreverent hacker culture, slapping posters on its unfinished concrete office walls that said things such as “Move Fast and Break Things”.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive, even repeated and defended the mantra in his letter to investors ahead of the social network’s initial public offering last year: “The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough. As most companies grow, they slow down too much because they’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are of losing opportunities.”
But just a year after its IPO, Facebook is pressing pause on the beloved saying. Small businesses, which Facebook wants to attract to its advertising platform, and privacy rights groups, which Facebook needs to appease, don’t seem to be taking immediately to the philosophy and humour of the “hacker way”.
“There are things you don’t want to break – like privacy,” one of the company’s spokespeople says. “Or, if you break an advertising system you could be breaking someone’s business.”
Facebook now prefers the more PR-friendly: “Move Fast and Fix Things” when interacting with those constituencies. Even the red and white posters of the original, offending version are disappearing from the new campus.
This cultural dissonance also emerged at Facebook’s first annual shareholder meeting earlier this month, when Zuckerberg found himself explaining the difference between a “good hacker” and a “bad hacker”. (Facebook has the good kind, he assured.) To the elderly women in the room, who bought Facebook stock on a tip from their grandchildren and are now underwater, Zuck may as well have been giving an orientation to new arrivals in the Land of Oz about good and bad witches.
Engineers and staff have greeted the shift with a shrug.
“Culture evolves,” says Miguel Velazquez, who has worked at Facebook for three and a half years and is now a user operations associate for Instagram, Facebook’s photo service. His preferred slogan is “Move Fast and Be Bold”. It captures the concept of taking risk in a “more universal” way, he says.
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