Longtime tech journalist Steven Levy’s new book, Facebook: The Inside Story, details how Mark Zuckerberg transformed a tasteless dorm room social networking experiment into the world’s biggest social networking business. In honor of that release, we thought we’d share an excerpt of an earlier Levy book, Crypto, about a man who ran in the opposite direction of Facebook’s data exploitation and privacy breaches. This is the story of Whit Diffie, who transformed how we think of encryption, paving the way for the digital security we enjoy today.
Bailey Whitfield Diffie, born June 5, 1944, was always an independent sort. As one early friend remarked, “The kid had an alternative lifestyle at age five.” Diffie didn’t read until he was 10 years old. There was no question of disability, he simply preferred that his parents read to him, which seemingly they did, quite patiently. Finally, in the fifth grade, Diffie spontaneously worked his way through a tome called The Space Cat, and immediately progressed to the Oz books. …
Early in her career at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg had a series of conversations with Chamath Palihapitiya, Facebook’s vice president of operations.
Palihapitiya was at a crossroads. He had joined Facebook barely a year before, leaving a job as a venture capitalist. Previously, Palihapitiya had been a VP at AOL, the youngest person to hold that position at the company.
During his time there, AOL wound up doing a small deal with Facebook that linked AOL Instant Messenger to Facebook’s website. But the biggest outcome of the deal was the connection Palihapitiya formed with Mark Zuckerberg.
The boisterous Palihapitiya and the more introspective Zuckerberg had similar views about business and tech. Every couple of months or so, the two of them would get together. Inevitably the idea arose that Palihapitiya might join Facebook. …
In the summer of 1995, right before he joined graduate school at Stanford, a 22-year-old Larry Page attended a program for accepted students that included a tour of San Francisco. His tour guide was a Rollerblading, trapeze-loving, mathematically inclined computer science grad student Page’s age who’d been at Stanford for two years.
“I thought he was pretty obnoxious,” Page would later say of the guide, Sergey Brin.
As the son of computer scientists, Page grew up in Lansing, Michigan, with computers as his primary language, later earning a degree in computer science at the University of Michigan. …