Mark Zuckerburg (quoted in The Facebook Effect p. 287):
Are you familiar with the concept of a gift economy? It’s an interesting alternative to the market economy in a lot of less developed cultures. I’ll contribute something and give it to someone, and then out of obligation or generosity that person will give something back to me. The whole culture works on this framework of mutual giving. The thing that binds those communities together and makes the potlatch work is the fact that the community is small enough that people can see each other’s contributions. But once one of these societies gets past a certain point in size the system breaks down. People can no longer see everything that’s going on, and you get freeloaders. When there’s more openness, with everyone being able to express their opinion very quickly, more of the economy starts to operate like a gift economy. It puts the onus on companies and organizations to be more good, more trustworthy. It’s changing the ways that governments work. A more transparent world creates a better-governed world and a fairer world.
Lewis Hyde (The Gift p. 36):
Potlatches were held to mark important events, such as a marriage or, most often, the assumption of rank by a member of a tribe. The oldest and most universal occasion for a potlatch was the death of a chief and the subsequent elevation of his successor to the vacant rank and title. … Status and generosity were always associated; no man could become a man of position without giving away property. … The tribe would labor a year or more to prepare the ceremony, if only to collect the treasure to be given away … .
In Mark Zuckerberg’s imagined potlatch, Facebook users are giving each other gifts (or should I say Farmville Gifts?), from which Facebook, almost incidentally, reaps a share of the value. But in a real potlatch, it would be Mark Zuckerberg giving away almost everything he owns.