If you work at Facebook, your employer will already wash your underwear, cut your hair, and feed you—now it's getting into the landlord game. The Wall Street Journal says Zuckerberg will usher in the 21st century version of company towns, a place where you can never truly leave the social network.
And what a town it'll be:
The social network said this week it is working with a local developer to build a $120 million, 394-unit housing community within walking distance of its offices. Called Anton Menlo, the 630,000 square-foot rental property will include everything from a sports bar to a doggy day care.
This isn't just an escalation of the ever-bubbling perk war—it's an entire new front. Facebook, like its rivals, has long sought to charm its employees into an infantile daze. Amusements, comforts, constant snacks—why would you want a distinction between corporation and caretaker when the "freebies" are so good? Now the distinction will be smashed instead of muddled, and Palo Alto paternalism reaches a new degree. Ten percent of Facebook's employees will essentially live at work, perked into submission.
America's tried the company town, time and time again. It didn't always go so well! Even if you swap coal tyranny for tech, there's always been something inherently unsettling about a private city built by your boss. Hardy Green put it pretty well in The Economist:
Company towns are both quintessentially American and supremely anti-American institutions. They are the corporate equivalents of cities on a hill, monuments to the power and creativity of America's corporate fathers. But at the same time they represent a triumph of the collective over the individual, places where the bosses owned the workers “heart, soul, skin and guts”, to borrow a phrase from Dashiell Hammett.
Questions about what this does to a human's brain and soul aside, what does it mean for Facebook—the company that seeks to make the world a more open and connected place—if it's pulling a substantial chunk of its workforce out of the world and into the womb?