Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg puts 'The Social Network' behind him, talks about the future
Everyone expected Mark Zuckerberg to squirm in the hot glare of the publicity surrounding the Hollywood film "The Social Network."
Instead, the 26-year-old Facebook founder, who started his company in a Harvard dorm room, seems to have finally found his comfort zone. Gone are the sweat-sopped, red-faced, awkward moments that betrayed just how much he would rather be building products than making public appearances. In recent weeks, he has come across as cool-headed, calm and confident.
That was never more true than during a one-hour onstage interview Tuesday evening with Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle, who put on the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. In the interview, Zuckerberg's third and by far most interesting appearance at the popular conference, he handled tough questions and tackled policy issues with intelligence and humor.
He talked expansively about how Facebook would play a crucial role in disrupting and restructuring any number of industries to make them more social. Gaming was the first industry to become more social on Facebook, and he predicted that other industries, such as music and television, would follow suit.
"Over the next five years, most industries are going to be rethought and designed around people," Zuckerberg said.
His message to those resisting change: "Get on the bus."
But when asked if his company might be preparing the paperwork for an initial public offering, Zuckerberg deadpanned: "Don't hold your breath."
He cast himself as young and fallible as an entrepreneur, admitting he had made "every mistake you can make." Yet more than 50% of Facebook's more than 500 million users visit the site at least once a day. "If you're building a product that people love, you can make a lot of mistakes," he said.
Zuckerberg also acknowledged that Facebook might not be "100% right" on privacy issues and in its current spat with Google.
"Frankly, it's one of the reasons why being at Facebook is so exciting," he said. "We are at the forefront at some of these issues, which are really unsolved issues in the industry. The correct answer isn't completely obvious."
When asked about the "Points of Control" map onstage, the theme of the conference showing the power consolidation of large companies on the Internet, Zuckerberg replied that the uncharted territory online should be the biggest part of the map.
"Your map is wrong," Zuckerberg said. "The biggest part of the map has to be uncharted territory. This map makes it seem like it's zero sum, but it’s not. We’re building value, not just taking it away from someone else."
The audience burst into applause while Battelle and O'Reilly nodded in agreement.
Perhaps most telling: Zuckerberg fielded no questions about "The Social Network" and his Hollywood hazing.
Looks like Facebook and its CEO have officially grown up. Which means that the world is going to expect a whole lot more from them now.
-- Jessica Guynn
Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, talks with employees in August. Credit: Tony Avelar / Associated Press