Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mark Zuckerberg Talks Facebook Search, Disappointing IPO And More

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sat down with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington yesterday for his first public interview since the company’s largely disappointing IPO. Zuckerberg shared details on Facebook’s mobile strategy, the possibility of a Facebook search engine, the disappointment of the IPO and much more.

During this week's TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, TechCrunch's Micheal Arrington sat down for a one on with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. In front of a standing-room only packed convention hall Arrington fired off questions for the young CEO. The most glaring and obvious question: How does Zuckerberg feel about the IPO given that the company’s share price has fallen by nearly half in four months?

“Well, the performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing,” he said, before reiterating Facebook’s mission to make the world more “open and connected.” He added, “It’s not the first up and down that we ever had.” When asked if the stock performance has affected internal morale at the company Zuckerberg said “Well, you know it doesn’t help,” adding “maybe some people will leave. I actually think it’s a great time for people to join and also for people to stay and double down.”

In a bit of a forward looking statement he said that Facebook’s performance over the next three to five years will be the company’s ability to transition to and monetize its audience on mobile devices “A lot more people have phones than computers,” Zuckerberg said. “And mobile users are more likely to be daily active users."

He said that mobile users are more than twice as likely to use Facebook more than 6 or 7 times per week. Following the launch of the new iOS app, the number of stories consumed doubled, he added. Mobile users spend more time on Facebook, and per time they spend more money than those on desktop. And mobile ads, although they have to be integrated more deeply into the mobile experience, do better than the right-side ads on Facebook. The problem, of course, is getting there, he admitted. Zuckerberg also addressed the challenges of mobile development, admitting that Facebook’s 2-year long bet on HTML5 was one of its biggest mistakes.

Is Facebook working on their own search engine?

This has be another hot topic that industry insiders have been curious about. With the large user bases than Facebook now commands they might be the only company out there that can challenge Google for its search dominance. While Facebook's CEO didn't get specific about the timing he left little doubt about the direction in which the company was moving and even less doubt that they have something up their sleeves. "At some point we will do it," Zuckerberg said.

"We do a billion queries a day and we aren't even trying. Mostly trying to find people or brand pages or apps. There is a big opportunity in search, evolving to giving a set of answers to a specific question and Facebook is uniquely positioned to do that. For example, 'Which of my friends or friends of friends work in a company I might like to work at?'"

So where does this leave Facebook?

Immediately following Zuckerberg’s chat with TechCrunch the stock rose in after-hours trading, and then jumped again today when the market opened. The new high today is the highest the stock has traded at in almost a month. The stock closed at $20.93, still a 7.73% increase over yesterday’s close of $19.43.

This hardly marks a turn around from a stock that has lost almost half its value but it does appear to be a glimmer of hope for investors. Facebook hasn't been very forthcoming with their long term monetization goals or plans as to how to use some of their tools at their disposal. At least the talks began to shed some light on the future of the company.

For the full interview head over to TechCrunch where you'll find all the videos and write-ups from the TechCrunch Disrupt chat. "The Best Sound Bites From Mark Zuckerberg’s First Interview Post-IPO [VIDEO]"

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