Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has been named Time magazine's Person of the Year, blatantly disregarding the wishes of the magazine’s readership, who voted in their droves to put WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the top spot.
The award is doled out annually to the person regarded by the magazine as the “most important” figure of the preceding 12 months. Readers are asked to vote for their favourite among a long list of nominations, but the final decision is left to the editors.
When the poll closed yesterday, Assange - who is currently in police custody (opens in new tab) in the UK - topped the chart (opens in new tab) with a whopping 382,024 votes, nearly a third of all those counted.
Über-nerd Zuckerberg, by contrast, appeared to garner little support within the ranks of his 500 million ‘friends’ on Facebook, only just scraping into the top ten with a measly 18,353.
The 26-year-old CEO was beaten on the leader board by public figures including Steve Jobs and Barack Obama. Even Lady Gaga shimmied past him in her rubber pants to take number three spot.
We can only assume the editors must have employed the so-called ‘Florida method’, first witnessed in the 2000 US presidential election, in their final decision.
The award was announced live on NBC TV’s Today show.
In a statement on the channel’s web site, Time editor Richard Stengel explained the magazine’s choice.
"More than half a billion people on the planet live in a world created by Mark Zuckerberg,” Stengel fawned.
“The good news is, their friends all live there too. Zuckerberg founded the social networking site Facebook in his college dorm six years ago, but 2010 was the year that Facebook reached critical mass, both in sheer quantity of users and in its presence (through its 'Connect' features) all over the Web."
"Zuckerberg spent much of the year fighting privacy concerns, and this fall he had to shake off a movie that depicted him as an alienated loner, hacking to get girls. But the world's youngest billionaire has no plans to slow Facebook's growth, nor does it show any sign of stopping."
Time magazine had a history of bestowing the accolade upon controversial figures. Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin were consecutive winners in 1938 and 1939.
But since the contentious selection of radical Iranian cleric Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, Time’s editors have taken a much more conservative approach.
Last year the award was won by the Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke. Presumably for services to bankers.