In his first post-IPO interview, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt on Tuesday to speak with former TC editor in chief Michael Arrington. The generally tight-lipped Zuckerberg addressed all the big, elephant-in-the-room-sized questions (including Facebook’s disappointing IPO) as well as rumors that will not die (two words: Facebook phone). Here are the five most important and revealing things he said this afternoon.
“We do a billion queries a day and we’re not even trying.”
Naturally, Arrington had to question Zuckerberg about search and Facebook’s position regarding it. The CEO nonchalantly revealed Facebook answers a billion user queries a day without even targeting itself as search engine with such a dedicated feature.
“You have these search engines… and you type in keywords and the search engines tell you what it thinks the answer is that matches your keywords. But now search is evolving to give you answers, and Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer a lot of questions that you have,” he said. “Like, ‘what sushi restaurants have my friends gone to in New York and liked?’ If we built out that system, you could do this.”
And it will. Zuckerberg says eventually Facebook will eventually cover this ground, and that there’s a team working on search now. “It’s one of the kind of obvious things that would be interesting for us to do in the future.”
As a side note, Arrington asked Zuckerberg whether Google+ “pissed” him off, which got a laugh, headshake, and a “no, no, no” out of the CEO.
This isn’t the first time questions over Facebook and search have surfaced, and it’s one of the many, many reasons that Google’s been nervous about the social network for quite awhile. However, this is the first time Facebook has pointedly talked about asserting itself as a search product.
“See the [Facebook] phone just doesn’t make any sense.”
It was inevitable that the Facebook phone would come up. And there really isn’t much to say about it: Zuckerberg says that is “just doesn’t make any sense.” It echoes exactly what he – and anyone affiliated with Facebook – says when questions over the tech world’s unicorn come up: That it’s not happening. Of course, you can interpret what “phone” means, as strange as that sounds. The idea that Facebook would partner with a mobile manufacturer on an all Facebook-OS (which, really, has pretty much already happened) isn’t that far-fetched, and we could see still some new innovation there. But as far as a proprietary, all-Facebook smartphone goes, consider the door closed.
“The performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing.”
The question we all wanted an answer to was addressed right away: Yes, it turns out Facebook wasn’t pleased with its IPO performance. Zuckerberg admitted that morale has taken a bit of hit due to the falling stock prices, but also said that it’s the future that clearly matters for Facebook.
“We do things to build value over the long term,” he says. He also noted that going all in on HTML 5 instead of developing native iOS and Android apps from the get-go was a poor choice. “We burnt two years, and that was painful,” he said. “Betting completely on HTML 5 is one of the, if not the, biggest strategic mistakes we’ve made,” going on to reiterate the site’s new focus on native mobile apps. He also said, to no one’s surprise, that mobile is where Facebook will make money and that this is where the users are – which is exactly what we’ve all known since the company’s S1 filing, and really even before that.
Zuckerberg didn’t offer any specifics on Facebook’s future strategy.
“I would rather be underestimated.”
It’s Facebook’s world and we’re just living in it – that’s why every time there’s a new iteration (like the Timeline) or a privacy concern (like face recognition), the user reaction is swift and usually angry. We all ride the wave of our love-hate relationship with Facebook, and turns out that Zuckerberg knows it.
“There are times when people are optimistic and pessimistic… I just want to keep building good stuff,” he said.
He talked about how Facebook is a “mission-focused” company, something that was hammered home during the early days of Facebook’s going-public-process when users were being reassured that money and stocks and shares aside, they were and are the number-one concern.
Zuckerberg also said that the Open Graph is his priority right now.
“[Instagram] has 100 million users.”
That’s right, Zuckerberg dropped some serious numbers about his company’s new aqusition’s user numbers.
“We want to help it grow to hundreds of millions of users. We have no agenda into making them going into our infrastructure. We’re going to do the things we would have done if they were an Open Graph partner, but we’ll be able to prioritize them,” he said, perhaps alleviating any remaining fears about what the deal means for the fate of one of the most user-beloved apps out there.
Zuckerberg also talked about how the surprising deal happened. The Facebook team was really interested in how Instagram was using its Open Graph integration — he called it “really first class.” The personal relationship between the two companies developed and eventually the idea of joining the two products was broached. “Eventually, I just brought up the idea to Kevin. ‘Hey, maybe we can just join and become one company,'” Zuckerberg said. “And that’s the game plan. We’re going to execute on features we decided on earlier.”
Facebook’s relatively hands-off attitude isn’t the only thing worth mentioning: At last count, Instagram had 80 million users, which was a number reported at the end of July. You can do the math here, but we’ll do it for you: In less than two months, Instagram has added approximately 20 million new users.
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