As part of my preparation for Web 2, I am going to think out loud and ask for all of your help. This year’s program for Web 2 includes an amazing array of leaders, and it’ll be my job, along with my co-producer Tim O’Reilly, to engage these folks in conversation worthy of the audience’s time.
So as I have in the past, I’ll use this space as a sketch pad of sorts.
First up is Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook (stats). I’ll be interviewing him in the opening slot of the show. It’s not by accident. Last year the opening slot was Eric Schmidt, and this year it’s clear that Facebook has diverted the Valley’s short attention span from Google, at least for now.
The press is always looking for the “next (insert current fascination here)”, and there is no question that Mark and Facebook are getting the Google circa 2004 treatment. Once again, a young entrepreneur has dropped out of a top school (Harvard this time) and nurtured a simple but powerful idea – harnessing the The Force of Many (that’d be us) – into a billion dollar business. (And Facebook has scale – 60 million uniques and counting according to the new conversational media report from Comscore.)
There are significant differences between Google and Facebook, of course, and as something of a historian in this field, I can’t help but note them. One thing I’ve noticed is voice – Google tried from the very beginning to have a certain voice – quirky, fun, smart, non confrontational. Facebook’s voice, such as it is, is neutral, nearly non existent. The voice is its users, not the service itself.
I’m looking forward to talking with Mark, and framing the Facebook phenomenon in the context of the Web2 world and beyond. Here are the questions/issues/ideas that come to mind as I think out loud about our conversation. Please, add your own in comments, and help me make the conversation we have worth everyone’s time.
– Facebook’s recent success has created many imitators – the latest being Yahoo Mash and certain, er, upgrades at Orkut and Myspace. How do you handicap the competition, and what will keep Facebook on its current growth trajectory?
– The lactation incident (among many others, including the Islam food fight) brings Facebook into the world Google has been in for some time – as arbiter of acceptable speech. How do you plan to play in this world?
– As long as it’s been brought up, may as well ask: Folks have for some time been looking for the next Google. Increasingly, Facebook is being held up as a prime candidate. Your promulgation of the social graph – not unlike the Web graph which led to PageRank – only heightens the comparison. Are you comfortable with that role?
– Can you imagine Facebook as a broader search or portal company?
– Facebook aquired Parakey in July. Why? Is this the start of a trend? Will business plans be launched with the exit of “flipping it to Facebook?”
– On that subject (the Facebook economy), Facebook Platform has certainly been a hit, but some questions do arise. As an entrepreneur, I might see leveraging Facebook as a bit dangerous – the point of view of a developer or investor, what insurance do I have that Facebook won’t change its policies at some point, and my dependance on the platform becomes a liability?
– What is your companies Big Hairy Audacious Goal? Do you wish for Facebook to become “the identity platform for the Internet“?
– You are in your twenties. Do you feel a need to get a “grownup” to run the company, or at least bring in a partner, as Larry and Sergey did with Eric?
– Let’s talk Facebook’s business model. Many of your developers are making money via Google ads, which means Google is making money off Facebook. But you are not. Thoughts on that?
– Clearly you are already in the ad business – reportedly half your revenue is from ads you sell yourself, and the other half comes from your Microsoft deal. But how might you go deeper? Do you want to get into the ad operating system business – the domain of Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, and Google? How might you do that?
– Facebook seems prime territory for a test of sell side advertising. Thoughts?
– How is the deal with Microsoft going? No, really, how is it going?
– Speaking of the ad business, what did you and Walmart learn from this incident? From the new Flyer business model?
– You recently decided to leverage search by making profiles public. Let’s discuss.
– What is your approach to the public markets – Peter Theil says not for 18 months – and the future financing of the company? Will you go on a hiring/new product/international tear? For example, Google has internationalized quickly. Will you? What do you make of the knockoffs?
– Did you really say no to $1billion from Semel?!
– Let’s talk about the privacy issue. You have a ton of data on your users. Some are concerned about using that data for advertising, but it goes well beyond that – now you are in the world of, er, Google again. Would Facebook ever proclaim or endorse this statement: Don’t Be Evil?
Whew. That’s a lot. No wonder Facebook is our current fascination.
What did I miss? Looking forward to your input.