Session 2 of the Web 2.0 Summitt: Co-chair Mark Battelle interviews Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder and CEO, about financing, hiring, the social graph, and more.

Mitch Wagner, California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

October 17, 2007

6 Min Read

Session 2 of the Web 2.0 Summitt: Co-chair Mark Battelle interviews Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Founder and CEO, about financing, hiring, the social graph, and more.Batelle asks, "How's the financing going?"

Zuckerberg: Going well.

Battelle: "Don't you think you're selling yourself shorts at $15 billion?"

Zuckerberg: (grins) "We'll see."

Battelle: What percentage of time do you spend on financing, worrying about IPO, fending off or dealing with potential investors?

Zuckerberg: None. But he worried about general corporate stuff, such as hiring.

Battelle: How much time do you worry about the revenue model?

Zuckerberg: "We don't focus on optimizing the revenue we have today. We've had the philosophy that we want to run at or close to break-even. Even when I was in my dorm in Harvard, and it cost $85 a month to run, we put up ads to take in $85."

Expects to grow to 700 employees in a year. Has about 100 now.

Battelle: "How does one get a job at Facebook? Especially before ... some event ... might occur."

Zuckerberg: It's "definitely years out." Not focused on that. Most of the recruiting is done by referrals from existing employees.

Battelle: How do you define the term "social graph"?

Zuckerberg: It's the set of connections, friendships, business connections, etc., that you have in the world. "All we're trying to do in Facebook is take the social graph that already exists in the world and map it out." Not making new connections. Once it's mapped out, expose it in a way users are comfortable with to business applications.

Battelle: "Is the social graph the heir to pagerank?"

Zuckerberg: "We're just decreasing the cost, making it easier for people to communicate with the world around them."

Battelle: "Raise your hand if you're involved in developing and application on Facebook." About a third of people raise their hand.

Zuckerberg: Rampup of Facebook overall has been "incredible" and "humbling." .. "We're going to be working on this for years. It might take 30 years, tens of years, before this is a mature platform."

Battelle: Developers terms of service is "terrifying." Says Facebook can change anything in any way it wants. How do they address fear that might be building business that's leveraged on Facebook?

Zuckerberg: Have to trust Facebook. Goal is not to jerk the rug out from under people. You don't even have to talk to Facebook to make an app. On the other hand, Facebook doesn't know how things might change.

"I don't think the intent there was as egregious as the terms of service might sound."

Look at the news feeds ... those were added this past September. Want to keep the freedom to continue to innovate in those fundamental ways.

Battelle: "People say I think I've seen this movie before -- Harvard dropout creates a platform with great forward momentum." Microsoft. "Can you see areas where Facebook might want to colonize the platform, and can you spell those out so we don't go into business there."

Zuckerberg: "There may be somethign in ads." But he won't elaborate -- will have more in a few months.

They will compete with third-party apps but on level ground - even now, they don't privilege their own apps over third-party apps.

Battelle: How about innovating in media, like Facebook?

Zuckerberg: We're not a media company.

Battelle: Re: ads. "How's the deal with Microosft going?"

Z: "I think we're both happy."

B: "You think or you're sure?"

Z: "Pretty sure." grins, audience laughs.

B: News today about setttlement with NY attorney general. What is your view about privacy and protection? Headline this morning: "Sororities On Probation With The Help Of" Apparently there was bad behavior on campus, posted to Facebook, and they got busted.

Z: Tons of information - like photos - on the open Web can share with everyone, no one, or a small number of people. For many people, if they have a choice between not sharing or everyone. New tools make people more comfortable sharing by allowing them to control who they share with. Years ago, people didn't even want to give their full names, or post their cell phone number. But because people can say they only want to share with friends, they're comfortable doing that. "Giving people control about how they can share informaiton on a very granular level not only makes people more comfortable sharing the information, it's what makes the system work."

Question from audience: Needs to be an open way for users to export their data. But now it's proprietary format. "That's my data, that's not Facebook's data."

Z: "We want to get there." Look at last four years of growth, from a service available at just one college. "We realie this is a flaw within the system, and something we want to get out as soon as possible." But working on lots of things at the same time.

Q (same audience member): Can we expect it in six months or a year?

Z: Doesn't know.

Question (from audience): How will Facebook go global, how will you address the sensitivities of different companies, will they be creating local offices?

Z: People do have connections all over the world. People outside the U.S. are creating global applications.

Charlene Li of Forrester: There are 6,000 applications on Facebook, many fun or frivolous. Are you happy with the direction? And are there apps you would like to see developed?

Z: It's still pretty early ... "Some of the initial stuff is great." ... will have to be building and adding to it for a while.

There are interesting applications for health, helping people share information. Will see more in three or six months.

Q: How do you handle subpoenas, both civil and criminal?

Z: "I actually don't know the answer to that question."

Q: What aer the pros and cons of taking money today, and if you ahve 700 employees in a year will they have equity.

Z: Taking money: Same pros and cons for all businesses. You get to grow in new areas. And cons are the same.

All employees now have equity, no plans to change.

Battelle: At some point, in a startup, you have to bring in a grownup. Comment on that? Jerry brought in Tim (Yahoo), and Sergey and Larry (Google) brought in Eric.

Z: They're more focused on bringing in a team.

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

California Bureau Chief, Light Reading

Mitch Wagner is California bureau chief for Light Reading.

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