At a Christmas party in 2007, Mark Zuckerberg met fellow Harvard grad Sheryl Sandberg, then vice president of online sales at Google. Already a legend from D.C. to Silicon Valley, Sandberg had served as chief of staff to Larry Summers during his term as Bill Clinton’s Treasury secretary and led Google’s online advertising strategy. Zuckerberg charmed her away from Google, and since then, Sandberg has accomplished what some thought impossible: making Facebook’s advertising business profitable, while keeping it discreet and social. Sandberg consistently appears on the “most powerful women in business” lists and serves on the boards of Disney, Starbucks, the Brookings Institution, and Women for Women International.
#3 in Evangelists Combined score: 69.0
Following the release of a YouTube video that showed Manal al-Sharif driving through the streets of the Saudi Arabian city Khobar, she was imprisoned for nine days last year and exposed to public condemnation. The move incited a larger campaign to give women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia, which has been unsuccessful so far. In May, she was awarded the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent at the Oslo Freedom Forum, where she explained that she’d been marginalized from her job as an Internet security consultant because of her activism.
#7 in Revolutionaries Combined score: 51.2
The writer is one of the digital world’s most prominent soothsayers, cataloging how social media and technology have changed culture and how they will challenge all aspects of our lives in the future. Clay Shirky’s most recent book, Cognitive Surplus, argues that technology has enabled more creative collaboration than ever before. His impact is instant—a video of his arguments against the antipiracy bills SOPA/PIPA was viewed more than a million times in 48 hours earlier this year. He’s currently a writer in residence at New York University’s journalism center and an assistant professor in the university’s Interactive Telecommunications Program.
#4 in Evangelists Combined score: 68.0
Arguably this year’s hottest Internet company, Pinterest is a digital scrapbook with a social bent. Founder Ben Silbermann was a product designer at Google when he quit, hoping to indulge his creative side. After months of floundering, he and a college friend came up with Pinterest and founded it in March 2010. The site’s success was anything but immediate—nine months after launch it had fewer than 10,000 users. Then, bolstered by word-of-mouth and tech-industry coverage, Pinterest attracted 8 million people in April.
#5 in Visionaries Combined score: 82.0
At the tender age of 22, Brian Stelter parlayed his founding of the website TVNewser into his current high-profile position as a New York Times media reporter, which has turned him into something of a gatekeeper for the chattering classes. In May 2011, Stelter was among the first and most influential Twitter users to tweet the news of Osama bin Laden’s death, right around the time that he was starring in the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times. Stelter hasn't always been a smooth Web operator: in late 2011, he landed in Gawker when he tweeted private messages to sources.
#10 in Virologists Combined score: 49.6
Yancey Strickler didn’t start out as a techie. For almost 10 years, he made his living as a freelance music journalist, eventually becoming editor of eMusic.com. It took a failed jazz concert to spark the idea for which he would become famous. When a friend, Perry Chen, couldn't get a $20,000 event off the ground, he approached Strickler to help brainstorm a way to fund small projects digitally. In 2009, along with tech designer Charles Adler, they launched Kickstarter, which crowdsources funding for cool projects. Though the investments may be small, the haul can be big: Diaspora, a proto social network, raised $200,000 on the site.
#2 in Evangelists Combined score: 74.2
As the cofounder of one of the Internet’s biggest startup success stories—he started Instagram in 2010 along with fellow Stanford alum Mike Krieger—Kevin Systrom is in the money. In less than two years, and with only 13 employees, the photo-sharing app amassed 35 million users, leading to a $1 billion acquisition by Facebook in April. Systrom previously worked at Odeo, the podcasting service started by Twitter cofounder Evan Williams, and Google, where he spent two years in products and corporate development.
#4 in Innovators Combined score: 63.8
He cofounded PayPal in 1998 and made $60 million when the company was sold to eBay in 2002. Three years later, he launched the hedge fund Clarium Capital, and established the VC firm Founders Fund with five other partners. By 2010 he’d created his now-famous “20 under 20” fellowship, which gives would-be students under 20 years old two years and $100,000 to pursue entrepreneurship and research rather than going to college. A close adviser to Mark Zuckerberg, he was an early Facebook investor and sits on the social-media company’s board.
#6 in Angels Combined score: 67.2
The Finnish-American software engineer started work on what’s known as the Linux “kernel” while a student at the University of Helsinki, Finland. The kernel is a core piece of free, open-source software used by developers to build variations of Linux operating systems. Today Linus Torvalds is a fellow at the Linux Foundation, a nonprofit consortium that encourages the growth of Linux by providing developers around the world with the network and information to improve the free operating system. “I'd like to say I knew this would happen, that it’s all part of the plan for world domination,” Torvalds once wrote in The Linux Edge. “But honestly this has all taken me a bit by surprise.”
#1 in Builders Combined score: 71.2
Through a combination of crude if infectious humor and smart viral marketing, comedian Daniel Tosh finds himself at the helm of Comedy Central’s highest-rated show, Tosh.0, with an average of 3.7 million viewers per episode. His personal Twitter account has nearly 5.9 million followers, making him the 54th-most-followed tweeter on earth. His 2011 comedy special, Happy Thoughts, pulled in 3.2 million viewers. Tosh seems like he’s on top of his game, but fans should take heed: Tosh has promised to end his career next year, on his 38th birthday, either by retirement or suicide.
#8 in Personalities Combined score: 55.0
Edward Tufte, 70, is considered by many to be the pioneering thinker in data visualization and information design, and his impact is felt across a wide variety of industries. A Yale professor and the author of several bestselling books, Tufte (pronounced TUFF-tee) has taught nearly a quarter of a million students as a touring lecturer, giving a one-day course, Presenting Data and Information, and he’s credited as the designer behind that squiggly line—a sparkline—used to illustrate the ups-and-downs of stock market activity in "intense, simple, word-sized graphics" like this: His most influential book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983), has sold nearly a million copies. “At their best,” Tufte has said, “graphics are instruments for reasoning.”
#9 in Builders Combined score: 51.6
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