Not many 27-year-olds can boast of having built a multibillion-dollar corporation, fostered a technological revolution, helped boost several real-world revolutions, and been the subject of a controversial Hollywood biopic. But they're not Mark Zuckerberg. With more than 800 million active users -- more than 10 percent of the world's population -- his Facebook is now a bona fide global superpower.
The social networking giant has the power to change the world for the better. But does it want to?
And in many ways, 2011 was the year that Facebook met global politics. The company attracted both awe from its business peers and criticism from human rights groups with its forays into the Chinese Internet market, while Egyptian Facebook groups became the vanguard of the movement that eventually brought down one of the world's oldest dictatorships. Zuckerberg may downplay his role in this year's uprisings, but it's not for nothing that one prominent online activist, Google's Wael Ghonim, personally thanked the Facebook CEO in the wake of Hosni Mubarak's ouster.
If any technology has given Facebook a run for its money in terms of impact this year, it's Twitter, the microblogging service invented by Jack Dorsey in 2006. Once the province of tech geeks, Twitter has become an essential communications tool for activists and government officials, as well as journalists and their readers, who can now get real-time reports from smartphone-wielding participants in the events. Dorsey has been more willing than his Facebook counterpart to emphasize his technology's role in this year's political events and even suggested that they may be Twitter's true raison d'être. "What's happening in Egypt right now," he said in March, "that's the value, not the brand Twitter. So we need to refocus on that value."
ANDREW GOMBERT/EPA; KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images