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Provo • Sporting his trademark dark hoodie, jeans and sneakers, the world's wealthiest 26-year-old stepped on to the stage at Brigham Young University's Marriott Center Friday and talked about his passion for education, his entrepreneurial spirit and, of course, Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg, one of the world's youngest billionaires ($13.5 billion and counting) and chief executive of the wildly successful social network site, visited the campus for a technology forum hosted by Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

"The main reason I invited him is to finally have him accept me as a friend," Hatch quipped while introducing Zuckerberg to the crowd of 10,600 people who came to see him at the events center.

Responding to a series of questions submitted by BYU students, Zuckerberg first talked about the astronomical growth of Facebook and how its humble beginnings in a Harvard dorm room erupted into a billion-dollar company that now has more than 500 million account holders.

Within two weeks of working on the project, two-thirds of the Harvard student body had signed up, he said, "and it got out of control since then."

Zuckerberg then moved the company to Palo Alto, Calif., where it now employs about 2,000 people, a small work force, he says, considering it services half a billion people.

As for the success of Facebook, he said his then-double major of psychology was just as valuable as his other major, in computer science. Zuckerberg ended up dropping out of Harvard to work on Facebook full time.

"There's always information that people might be interested in, but the things people are most interested in are with people they really care about," he said. "A lot of what we're doing is as much about psychology and sociology as it is technology."

When asked about the qualities that make for an enlightened entrepreneur, Zuckerberg insists it is passion that breeds success.

"You have to really love and believe in what you're doing. If you go to start and build something ... it's hard and you encounter a lot of challenges," he said.

Among the biggest challenges Zuckerberg has faced lately has been criticism that Facebook has not been more protective of its users' private information. Initially, the social network by default left privacy settings of its users open for the benefit of advertisers.

Since the wave of criticism, Facebook has simplified its privacy options for users.

Zuckerberg said maintaining the network members' privacy online is a priority for Facebook and that the company is continually taking measures to ensure its security.

"We're really focused on safety, especially children's safety. We take a lot of extra precautions," he said. "We really try to create a safe environment."

One question Hatch didn't ask his guest was Zuckerberg's thoughts on the recent Oscar-winning movie, "The Social Network," a critical examination of the founding of Facebook that implies the Harvard student actually stole the idea for Facebook from two other students. The movie also suggests that Zuckerberg betrayed one of his best friends and a co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin, by kicking him out of the company early on.

Despite the movie's harsh potrayal of Zuckerberg, the otherwise unassuming CEO has softened his image of late, donating $100 million to the Newark Public Schools in New Jersey and also being named Time's Person of the Year for 2010.

The reception Zuckerberg got at BYU's Marriott Center was akin to the welcome of a rock star, with thousands of people applauding his entrance and throughout the Q&A, even though he admitted he was a little nervous because, "I've never spoken to a stadium of people before."

In fact, Zuckerberg said it was the first time he had ever spoken at a college before. And for his reward, he was given a gift that he surely would appreciate — a half-dozen hoodies from the state's colleges, including BYU, the University of Utah and Utah State University.