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Published: Saturday, 12/18/2010

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A YOUNG, T-shirt-wearing techie is Time magazine's "2010 Person of the Year." Based on the publication's criteria for awarding the title, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg more than earned the recognition.

The 26-year-old Harvard dropout, who began the world's largest social-networking site in 2004, truly has "for better or for worse … done the most to influence the events of the year."

He did it by creating a "new system of exchanging information," as Time managing editor Richard Stengel put it, that has changed how we all live.

The social-networking platform that the lanky Mr. Zuckerberg started in college for other students is a ubiquitous presence around the globe today. The Web service, which now boasts more than 550 million users, "is the connective tissue for nearly a tenth of the planet," Mr. Stengel wrote. "We have entered the Facebook age."

What that means is unclear, but what's certain is the appeal of an Internet powerhouse that has made its mysterious CEO something of a cultural icon. Of course, before a movie portraying the wunderkind in less than flattering terms appeared, it's safe to say few outside tech circles knew him.

Not anymore. From the movie The Social Network to appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and generous displays of philanthropy - perhaps to blunt his onscreen portrayal - his public ascent is as remarkable as the networking system he founded that hooked half a billion people with a keystroke. And now Time magazine has clicked "Like" on Facebook's Zuckerberg, raising his profile even higher. But the annual honor is also a testament to the rising power of a new generation of Silicon Valley innovation.

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