The release of Google marketing exec Wael Ghonim two days ago reignited Egypt's political drama and also underscored the role of digital technologies in fueling the protests.
Ghonim, who had been detained for 12 days, confirmed he was the creator of the “We Are All Khaled Said” Facebook page that built support for the protests ahead of January 25 start. It now has 430,000 followers.
His re-appearance on Monday, and his modest, inspiring manner, helped attract the biggest rally yesterday since demonstrators first hit the streets two weeks ago.
His apparent ability to shift events lends weight to the "cyber-utopians" who believe the power of the Web is driving the protests.
Not that they haven't oversold the power of the Net, as critics claim. People have long risen against despots without the help of Facebook, and it's true that the web shutdown last week did not keep them away from Tahrir Square.
But it's equally true that there are poor and desperate people the world over who are not confronting their oppressors in the streets.
Poverty and anger over corruption are surely the root causes of the dramatic events on the Nile, and doubtless Tunisia was the spark.
The numbers further tell the story. As well as those who have joined Ghonim's original Facebook page, another 130,000 have followed the “I delegate Ghonim” page, representing a direct intervention into the stalled political process.
A Facebook page is not a revolution, but it is impossible to imagine the Arab uprisings of 2010 without the Internet and the handset.