Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Andreessen to join Facebook's board, train Zuckerberg in ways of the Force

There's no conflict of interest with his own social-networking start-up Ning, both companies say. Veteran entrepreneur Marc Andreessen will provide some guidance to Mark Zuckerberg and his largely young team.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

As has been repeatedly rumored, Silicon Valley legend Marc Andreessen will be taking a seat on Facebook's board of directors. In a press release issued Monday afternoon, the veteran entrepreneur--co-founder of Netscape, former CTO of AOL, and now co-founder of social site Ning--was announced as the board's fourth member. He'll join Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as well as two of the company's early investors, Accel Partners' Jim Breyer and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, now of the Founders Fund and Clarium Capital.

"Marc is an industry leader, and we're fortunate to have him join our board," Zuckerberg said in the release issued Monday.

Not surprisingly, the 24-year-old hopes that Andreessen can act as a sort of Obi-Wan Kenobi figure. "He has experience that is relevant to Facebook in so many ways: scaling companies that are experiencing extraordinary growth, creating successful technology platforms, and building strong engineering organizations. I know Marc will be a great mentor to me and our leadership team," Zuckerberg said.

Perhaps most interestingly, Facebook's release refers to Ning as "a complementary platform to Facebook." When rumors began to swirl about Zuckerberg wanting Andreessen on his board of directors, some critics suggested that he'd have a conflict of interest as co-founder and chairman of a potential rival. But Ning is more a Web 2.0 spin on the discussion forums of old (say, 1998), allowing members to create micro-niche communities centered around discourse. Facebook, for many, is the 21st-century edition of an address book: highly effective at what it does, but centered on maintaining connections rather than letting interest groups flourish. Facebook's own "Groups" feature, for example, is very stripped-down compared with Ning.

And it doesn't look like Andreessen sees Facebook as the competition either. "Facebook is one of the most innovative companies on the Web and it's an honor to join the board," he said in the statement. "I'm looking forward to helping the team as Facebook continues to grow."