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As Facebook goes corporate, Mark Zuckerberg loses an early player

It's part of the natural evolution of a fast-growing company for some early execs to jump ship when they no longer recognize the start-up they helped build. That might've been why longtime Facebook CTO Adam D'Angelo has departed.

It's kind of like this: an indie rock band gets signed to a major label, and after a taste of the high life, the bassist jumps ship.

On Sunday, word got out that Adam D'Angelo, chief technology officer at Facebook and a friend of founder Mark Zuckerberg since high school, had submitted his resignation on Friday. D'Angelo had been one of Facebook's first employees, though he did not have formal "co-founder" status.

Reports swirled that he was at odds with Zuckerberg, or that he was no longer interested in the position; whatever the reason, I speculate he may have timed the announcement so that it came after Facebook's announcement of its Facebook Connect data portability project had been finalized. As CTO, D'Angelo, who didn't keep a very high profile in the company, would likely have overseen many of Facebook Connect's operations.

The indie-band metaphor stands. Facebook wasn't bought, but it sure isn't the same company that sprouted up in a Harvard dorm room more than four years ago. Zuckerberg's aim of helping the world communicate might not have changed, but the company's operations inevitably are very different when there are offices around the world, more than 70 million users, and prominent ex-Google employees like Sheryl Sandberg and Elliot Schrage pulled in as executives.

Every company on the rise is going to have at least one, probably more early employees who just don't mesh well with the boardroom furniture and prefer the old dorm decor. A recent survey found that some employees departing Google--which is, to be fair, a much more mature company than Facebook--leave because it's no longer "the revolution." Depending on who you ask, Facebook is still "the revolution," or maybe it isn't, or maybe it never was in the first place and it's still fated to go the Friendster route. Perhaps the Caltech-educated D'Angelo wanted a return to start-up fever, and felt it was his time to bow out.

No rumored catfight with Zuckerberg is necessary. Sorry, scandal fans.