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Who really runs Facebook?

Who really runs Facebook?

Who are the investors, directors, and executives around Zuckerberg, and which have a hand in steering the ship?

Quick: Who's the CEO of Facebook?

Any geek worth his or her salt knows the answer: Mark Zuckerberg, the 26-year-old Harvard dropout whose net worth is said to be north of US$3 billion.

But behind Zuckerberg is a rogues' gallery of executives, advisors, and investors. Every one has an agenda, and a hand in the operation.

Or do they? How much control does anyone not named Zuckerberg really have at the company? Are there power struggles within Facebook's ranks? Will Zuckerberg someday be forced out or replaced (however cordially)? And who really runs Facebook, anyway?

To answer those questions we have to start at the top, outlining the key players at the company and what roles they play there--officially or otherwise. If you want additional information on who's who (and especially who's gone), the Facebook CrunchBase profile is an excellent resource.

On the Payroll

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO: This man clearly needs no introduction. He envisioned Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004 and has personally overseen the company's growth on a daily basis ever since. By all accounts, Zuckerberg is not some powerless figurehead. He is deeply and inextricably involved with every major decision that Facebook undertakes. Zuckerberg has the misfortune to be the subject of an unflinching media eye, and the press dutifully documents his occasional missteps.

Earlier this year Business Insider claimed to have been given access to the IM sessions of a 19-year-old Zuckerberg, in which he mocked users for giving him their personal information, calling them "Dumb f***s." On a corporate level, Facebook's Beacon "social advertising service" became a major black eye for the company in 2007, with Zuckerberg finally taking personal responsibility for its failure when the public shunned it.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO: Formerly a vice president at Google and chief of staff for the United States Treasury, Sandberg came to Facebook in 2008 as the company's first COO. At the time many observers speculated that this was a move akin to Google's bringing in Eric Schmidt to take over the CEO reins, with some assuming that the young Zuckerberg (just 23 at the time) needed "adult supervision." More on Sandberg later, but it now seems apparent that--at least in the short run--Sandberg is not being groomed to take over for Zuckerberg. In reality, she does seem to be in charge of day-to-day sales and marketing operations, the nitty-gritty business functions in which Zuckerberg has no interest.

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