Web 2.0 Summit: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

First impression of Web 2.0 Summit: The lobby of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco is like Costco on a Saturday morning.

And the connectivity is horrifically bad. The Palace Hotel is like some vast black hole, sucking up all WiFi, EVDO and cellular signals into itself and leaving conference attendees like me bumbling about in analog darkness like root-diggers in an eclipse. Now that The Palace has, according to its Web site, “redefined elegance” it should look into upgrading the 56K Global Village TelePort modem it’s apparently using to connect guests to the Internet.

Anyway …

The event kicks off with Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of social-networking phenom Facebook, in conversation with John Battelle, founder and chairman of Federated Media Publishing. Is it just me or is Zuckerberg a spitting image of Judge Reinhold in Fast Times at Ridgemont High?


Battelle asks Zuckerberg the question of the moment: how are the funding deals going? Zuckerberg replies that they’re almost “wrapped up”–giving no specifics. Is the company really worth $15 billion? Says Zuckerberg: “We’ll see.”

On the subject of what he calls the “social graph,” Zuckerberg notes that with so much available on the Web and via social-network connections, many people learn what they know from the social graph, which “decentralizes information.” Batelle queries the audience about who’s developing Facebook apps, and roughly a fifth of the crowd’s hands go up. Zuckerberg beams, saying it has been at once “humbling” and “amazing” to see how many have stepped up to develop the Facebook platform. Sadly, Battelle misses his chance to ask Zuckerberg about his Vampire and Zombie stats.

Now Battelle is comparing the company to the evolution of another big platform: Microsoft. He is asking Zuckerberg if there are areas where Facebook might want colonize the platform, so we don’t start businesses there. Zuckerberg: “We might want to do something in ads.” Really? You don’t say.

After discussing the challenges posed by such technical problems as building news feeds, Zuckerberg is prompted to discuss Facebook’s ad deal with Microsoft. Ah, not so chatty now, are we? Zuckerberg says both companies are “pretty happy with the deal.”

“You sure?”

” … I think so,” Zuckerberg replies. Wow. Sounds like Microsoft’s got itself one hell of a deal here.

The discussion then veers off into the subjects of privacy (Zuckerberg says that as people become more familiar with the Web, they share more, especially when they learn how to control what information about themselves they release); the perceived frivolousness of many of Facebook’s apps (Zuckerberg says it’s still too early to make a final judgment, with many useful applications, such as ones related to health, coming up); and whether this young company needs a grown-up (a la Google’s Eric Schmidt) to step in and help run it (all he wants, Zuckerberg replies, is to “bring in a really good team.”)

(For a more extensive report of this session, see fellow blogger Eric Savitz of Tech Trader Daily–who grabbed a bit of the ballroom’s bandwith early on and ran with it…)