By DANIEL BATES
Millions across the world will be thinking the same thing – if only I had thought of that.
But it is 26-year-old Mark Zuckerberg who is reaping the rewards after starting social networking phenomenon Facebook.
The Harvard graduate shot up the list of wealthiest people in America yesterday with an estimated personal wealth of £4.4billion.
$6.9bn fortune: Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (left) has jumped above rival and Apple CEO Steve Jobs in the latest Forbes magazine rich list
After starting the website as a computing student in 2004, Mr Zuckerberg now ranks 35th above well-known, and much older, heavyweights such as Rupert Murdoch, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs and film director George Lucas.
But while they have been at the top of the annual Forbes 400 list for years, Mr Zuckerberg is the star earner this year after his worth went up by 245 per cent – the biggest gain of anyone on the list.
Like last year, Bill Gates is the richest with a personal fortune of £34.4billion.
Since taking a back seat from the company he has also become one of the most generous people in America, donating more than £17.2billion to charity through his own foundations.
With a fortune of $54bn, Bill Gates (left) is the richest man in America for the 17th year in a row while investor Warren Buffett is at number two with $45bn
And Mr Zuckerberg has followed the Microsoft founder’s relatively modest approach to life, as Facebook has grown to more than 500 million users, knocking Google off its perch as the top website.
The 26-year-old lives in a humble rented home in Paolo Alto, California and drives a £13,000 car.
Luisa Kroll, Forbes global wealth editor said Facebook was the success story of this year which is still suffering from the fallout of the global recession.
Third in the Forbes list is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison (left) with $27bn, while Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz (right) is the youngest dollar billionaire, worth $1.4bn
‘At a time where there are a lot of the same people on the list and not a lot of new things being created, you do have Facebook,’ she said.
But despite the economic downturn, anyone wanting to get on the list this year must have a personal fortune of at least £638million for the first time since 2008.
The total worth of those on the Forbes 400 rose to £874billion in 2010, up 8 per cent from last year.
AMERICAN TOP 10 RICHEST
Second wealthiest is investor Warren Buffett with a fortune of £28.7billion and in third is Larry Ellison, the founder of computer software company Oracle, with a net worth of £17.2billion.
Mr Zuckerberg followed up the unveiling of the Forbes rich list last night by revealing that he is set to make a £66million donation to help turn around some of America’s worst schools in New Jersey.
He plans to announce the huge gift on The Oprah Winfrey Show today.
But critics say the announcement comes a week before the much-anticipated opening of The Social Network a Hollywood film which reportedly portrays him in an unfavourable light.
The film details the creation of the hugely popular social networking site that has made him one of the youngest billionaires in America.
Much of the Forbes list is made up of technology moguls and investors including George Soros, who is ranked at number 14 with a fortune of £9billion.
The list is also overwhelmingly male with just a sprinkling of women including Walmart heiress Christy Walton who is fourth richest with £15.3billion.
Representing the world of entertainment were Steven Spielberg at number 110 with £1.9billion, and Hollywood’s richest man, media mogul David Geffen who came in at 54 with a net worth of £3.2billion.
Forbes also highlighted a number of ‘billionaires in the making’ including rapper Jay-Z who has a personal fortune of £287million with a spread of business interests and entrepreneurial projects.
A measure of his success is that in 2007 he tied with Elvis Presley for the most number one albums in the U.S. by a solo performer, only to break the record last year.
Now only The Beatles have more number one records with 19 to Jay-Z’s 11.
According to Forbes the list is compiled by research throughout the year involving employees, rivals, attorneys, ex-spouses and securities analysts.
‘We keep track of their moves: the deals they negotiate, the land they’re selling, the paintings they’re buying, the causes they give to,’ said Miss Kroll.
The full Forbes 400 list can be seen at www.forbes.com/Forbes400
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1314532/Facebooks-Mark-Zuckerberg-valued-6-9bn-Forbes-rich-list.html#ixzz10QZKjACM