Mark Zuckerberg is the multi-billionaire founder and CEO of Facebook. This week he testified before Congress, assuring lawmakers that his company will play nice with government regulators.
Richard Hendricks is a character on HBO's sitcom Silicon Valley, the bumbling CEO of the unfortunately named Pied Piper. His memorable moments include evacuating his bowels, vomiting, and then lunging into a glass wall in front of his workers.
One is poised when being grilled by Congress and the other can't deliver a pep talk to his staff without hurling under his desk.
But Hendricks is a better hope for the future of the internet than Zuckerberg. Here's why.
In his testimony, Zuckerberg welcomed regulation—and agreed to help craft it. He's in the same position as late-19th-century railroad tycoons. Contrary to conventional wisdom, these robber barons embraced regulation as a way to raise the barriers to entry for competitors who were eating into their profits and market share.
Still sporting a hoodie, Richard Hendricks is at an earlier stage of his career. He's trying to build a new internet in an effort to outmaneuver Hooli, a fictional amalgamation of Google and Facebook. Richard represents the next wave of innovation—the competitor who, if government stays out of it, will eventually erode Facebook's market share by offering a better product.
Even Richard's approach to disrupting Facebook is more than just TV fantasy. There's a real movement in the tech world to build a new decentralized web that would give users actual control over their own data and create open platforms that aren't controlled by any single all-powerful CEO. One reason to bet on real-life projects such as Blockstack and Ethereum to decentralize the internet is that talented engineers are beating down their doors, because working at Google and Facebook is lucrative but soul killing.
As Facebook and Congress start to write new rules for cyberspace, all of us who believe in free expression and permissionless innovation have a stake in making sure that the future of the internet remains as open as possible.
Written by Jim Epstein and Nick Gillespie, who also narrates. Produced by Todd Krainin.