The future of the Web – Facebook Style
Lots of news came out of the Web 2.0 summit, and there was an interview hosted by Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle where they spoke with Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook. They touched on a number of subjects, ranging from the new Facebook Messages service, to privacy and on to opinions and thoughts of “what’s next?” for the web.
Zuckerberg said that initially the idea of Messages came to him when having a conversation with a high school student who lamented that email is “too slow”. Taking the idea to the drawing board, the development team decided that they could lose certain aspects which makes email a “slow” medium of conversation. Things like the subject line, multiple paragraph letters and formal signatures. Messages aims to streamline communications between instant messaging, SMS (simple messaging service) and email.
When Zuckerberg was asked about Facebook and some of the privacy concerns, as well as the seeming mantra of “Don’t ask for permission, ask for forgiveness” he deflected the conversation within a sentance or two back to the Messages service. Mark made the point that even though Facebook allows the friendship relationship to share information across wide groups, he made the point that “I don’t know that we’re 100% right about it”. Also admitting that Facebook is often in the crosshairs of privacy watchdogs because “Facebook is at the forefront of the internet privacy issue, and are trying to come up with solutions” Getting everything right, everytime isn’t a possibility for any company on the web, but it’s perhaps the two values being pressed to development teams at Facebook that keeps it in the privacy limelight; move fast, and be bold. If an idea is fleshed out, take the chances and move fast on it and let it into the social world. Change is always scary, but it’s also the quickest and surest way to grow and adapt.
A rather pointed question about competition was directed about the ad network on Facebook, in the form of being socially driven. Zuckerberg somewhat deflected this question as well, stating that he’s not sure it’s the right direction right now, and that there’s still a lot of work left to do on the web. When it came to the user base of Facebook, the metric which was given was that “50% of user accounts on Facebook are active everyday” and in the next 5 years or so, we’re going to see the internet moving into a more socially interactive model. Seeing as how Facebook is *the* social place to be online right now, the question was asked if there will be other social graphs to make an appearance and gain importance. In answer, Zuckerberg showed that a few years ago, app developers wouldn’t have contributed to the web space mainly because the user base wasn’t centralized. Now that developers can safely assume that 60% of their userbase are Facebook users and are “socially enabled” it allows companies and businesses to develop apps and services that even just 2 years ago didn’t make sense. The expectation is there will be various social graphs online, and they will all be able to work together.
One of the better questions pose was in terms of with Facebook becoming such a giant in the social space, is Facebook aiming to be the prime destination online, or is Facebook wanting to be an enabler for the web. Unexpectedly in a sense, Mark made the admittance that Facebook will be more of an enabler of the web as we move forward. There was a graphic at the summit, outlining the web in different countries in a way. At the end of the interview Zuckerberg pointed out that the image should be changed. As the graphic detailed the internet and online industry in a “zero sum” fashion, as in no room to grow or change other than taking anothers place, the image should be comprised primarily of an undetermined space. It’s the skewed view of the media, and a great many industry analysts that the web is a defined space, that leads to the headlines of “Facebook declares war on Google” and so on.
It was a good interview to listen too, and Zuckerberg had some interesting points to share on the web industry as a whole. Have a watch for yourself and see.