Facebook: 5 Things You Didn't Know - InformationWeek

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11/8/2014
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Facebook: 5 Things You Didnít Know

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg discussed why the social network made Messenger mandatory, his personal style, and more in a Q&A session with users. Here's a look at the highlights.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg opened up about his personal style, the company's unpopular decision to make Messenger mandatory, and other questions from users on Thursday during the social network's first public Q&A session.

The event, which was live streamed and lasted an hour, mirrored meetings that Zuckerberg holds with employees, who are encouraged to ask the CEO anything they want. Zuckerberg said this is an important part of Facebook's culture, and wanted to extend the tradition to the public.

"People ask thoughtful questions about why our company is going in certain directions, what I think about things happening in the world, and how we can continue improving our services for everyone," he said in a post on his Facebook page.

Topics that Zuckerberg addressed ranged from the accuracy of the movie The Social Network to details about Facebook's news feed algorithm, and the reason why he wears the same outfit every day. Here's a look at the highlights.

[Catch up on the latest Facebook changes. Read Facebook: 10 New Changes That Matter.]

1. Zuckerberg never wanted Facebook to be "cool."
Zuckerberg addressed a question that asked whether Facebook had become boring -- a nod to research that indicates that teens don't use it. His response: The social network is a utility, and utilities inherently aren't very cool.

"My goal was never really to make Facebook cool. I am not a cool person and I've never really tried to be cool," Zuckerberg said.

Facebook, he said, just needs to work, like a light bulb or turning on a faucet. Those actions aren't "cool," he explained, but they're things that "people can rely on."

2. The reason Facebook made Messenger mandatory.
Messenger is a better experience than the feature built into the main app, Zuckerberg said. It's faster, but only if all of your friends use the app, too, which is why the company made it mandatory for anyone wanting to chat.

"Asking everyone in our community to install a new app is a big ask," Zuckerberg said. "Asking folks to install another app is a short-term painful thing, but if we wanted to focus on service ... we had to build a dedicated and focused experience. This is some of the hardest stuff we do, is making these choices. We realize that we have a lot to earn in terms of trust and proving that this standalone messenger experience will be really good."

Zuckerberg acknowledged that it wasn't a popular decision among users, admitting that "maybe we didn't handle that as smoothly as we could, in terms of transition."

3. There's a reason Zuckerberg wears the same thing every day.
Steve Jobs was known for his signature black turtleneck, while Zuckerberg has become synonymous with jeans and a gray t-shirt. But why?

"I'm in this really lucky position where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than 1 billion people, and I feel like I'm not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on stuff that's frivolous [like deciding what to wear]," he said. "Even though it kind of sounds silly, that that's my reason for wearing a gray t-shirt every day, it's also true."

4. Facebook's news feed algorithm is a work in progress.
Each user's news feed contains more than 1,500 stories each day, Zuckerberg said, but you only see a fraction of them -- about 100. That's where Facebook's news feed algorithm comes in, which is designed to surface the information you'll find the most interesting and important.

Zuckerberg and team are constantly tweaking the algorithm with hopes of it becoming "the perfect personalized newspaper for everyone in the world," he said. Coincidentally, that's why businesses have complained that they're reaching fewer and fewer people.

"If businesses are sharing content that may be useful to [Facebook users], then we'll show that. But if that means that businesses are sharing content that isn't going to be useful for them, we may not show that because it's probably more important that they learn about a friend who had a baby and their baby is healthy," Zuckerberg said.

5. The Social Network hurt Zuckerberg's feelings.
Zuckerberg was asked how accurate The Social Network movie was in portraying his life and the rise of Facebook, and he maintained that while some elements were based on reality, most of it was untrue.

"I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about this in a while. I kind of blocked that one out," he said. "The reality is that writing code and building a product is not a glamorous enough thing to make a movie about. A lot of the stuff they probably had to embellish and make up. If they were really making a movie, it would've just been me at a computer coding for two hours straight."

Some details, including the office design, were accurate, Zuckerberg said, but "with the overarching plot about why we're building Facebook or how we did it, they kind of made up a bunch of stuff that I found kind of hurtful."

Zuckerberg said that more than 9,000 people submitted questions to the Q&A with Mark Facebook page, and that he plans to hold more town hall Q&A sessions in the future.

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Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2014 | 6:06:40 PM
Re: Remember
Unfortunately, I think we're well on our way, though.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
11/30/2014 | 6:05:44 PM
Re: tip of the iceberg
It's not just Facebook, though. Google (and others) have done this forever. Facebook was actually pretty late to that party.
SachinEE
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SachinEE,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2014 | 11:34:07 AM
Re: tip of the iceberg
Isn't it a downer how Facebook newsfeed algorithm also collects data from the sites I've visited to aquire a side panel of advertisements that suit me? I find it very uncomfortable as if my movements are being watched.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2014 | 11:58:45 PM
Re: tip of the iceberg
I completely agree. User data, reach and user time is how it makes its money. This brings up an interesting point, i.e. has Facebook gained any additional user attention in their Newsfeed section by splitting their main app from their messaging feature. 
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/11/2014 | 11:29:50 PM
Re: Remember
Facebook is still one of those platforms that can be ignored by the user if they choose. I don't think the same can be said about businesses that ignore the platform. LinkedIn on the other hand seems like a platform that might cost the user heavily if it is ignored and firms start using it increasingly for their hiring requirements. Either way, these platforms require a lot of time and effort by the user to portray a clear and accurate picture.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
11/11/2014 | 9:33:22 AM
Re: tip of the iceberg
I'm not surprised Facebook didn't answer any privacy questions; clearly the ones they answered were purposefully hand-picked. (Can you imagine how volatile the Q&A session -- which was more of a PR ploy, really -- could have become?) Privacy will always be Facebook's downfall -- but user data is how it makes its money. Facebook has no need to change unless users begin leaving in droves, which won't happen unless there's a viable alternative.
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
11/10/2014 | 12:22:30 PM
Remember
Remember that it was only a few years ago that Mark Zuckberg declared privacy as officially dead. I don't think we're quite there yet and I hope that enough people will continue to not give Facebook everything in order to prove that point. 
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/10/2014 | 11:59:51 AM
Re: tip of the iceberg
hahahah.  Thank you Paul.  I think they picked the most innocent questions. I really don't care whether their CEO wears the same T-shirt to work.  But, if he thinks my personal photos are his property and he can use it however he wants it. That is a serious matter.  They are making huge amounts of money, if they are using our info they should at least, informed us ahead of time.  
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2014 | 5:00:55 PM
Re: tip of the iceberg
Good point about privacy. I would have imagined that it was a big enough topic to make the Q&A session. At the end of the day, Facebook is under a trade-off, if they do not monetize their system then economics will bring the site down and if they over monetize it by not taking user privacy seriously then, users will eventually bring the site down.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
11/9/2014 | 10:24:18 AM
Re: tip of the iceberg
@Pedro.. You stole my thunder :)

Exactly what I was thinking when I was reading this. Privacy has gone out the window and Facebook appaerntly doesn't care about people's privacy when they can make $$$ at its expence.
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