Mark Zuckerberg courtesy Jason McELweenie (CC 2.0)

Mark Zuckerberg courtesy Jason McELweenie (CC 2.0)

Today the editors of Time magazine announced that not betting-favorite Julian Assange, but rather Mark Zuckerberg is their choice as Person of the Year.

“For connecting more than half a billion people and mapping the social relations among them (Time said on their website); for creating a new system of exchanging information; and for changing how we all live our lives, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is TIME’s 2010 Person of the Year.”

In justifying their choice of Zuckerberg over Assange, Time said, “Like two of our runners-up this year, Julian Assange and the Tea Party, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t have a whole lot of veneration for traditional authority. In a sense, Zuckerberg and Assange are two sides of the same coin. Both express a desire for openness and transparency. While Assange attacks big institutions and governments through involuntary transparency with the goal of disempowering them, Zuckerberg enables individuals to voluntarily share information with the idea of empowering them. Assange sees the world as filled with real and imagined enemies; Zuckerberg sees the world as filled with potential friends. Both have a certain disdain for privacy: in Assange’s case because he feels it allows malevolence to flourish; in Zuckerberg’s case because he sees it as a cultural anachronism, an impediment to a more efficient and open connection between people.”

Of course it’s always better to have a popular honoree like Zuckerberg (who is giving much of his new fortune to charities) than someone like Assange.  When Grand ayatollah Khomeini was named Man of the Year by Time‘s editors in 1979, the magazine reportedly lost 15,000 subscriptions from outraged readers.