LIVE: Mark Zuckerberg Lays Out Facebook's Next Moves

Posted by: Rob Hof on March 4, 2009

I’m heading to Facebook this morning for a briefing with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and others on the company’s latest product developments. One of them will be the next step for Facebook Pages, the showcase home pages that brands can create to engage their customers more intimately. This won’t be news to anyone who follows Facebook on blogs such as AllFacebook and Inside Facebook, both of which have detailed looks at the redesign. Zuckerberg has a blog post up now too.

The redesign is interesting because now these pages will look more like typical profile pages, which is to say, they’ll change a lot more often, potentially getting people to visit more often. The pages also will now include status updates, the short messages that are the heart of Facebook’s social glue, giving brands ways to provide more regular and potentially more engaging communications with customers or fans. And content from the Pages will show up more often in the feeds of fans who friend them.

Since at least one study shows people on social networking sites tend not to look at ads much, the marketing potential of Pages looms larger.

UPDATE: I’ve arrived and await the coming of Mark. I’ll keep updating from the bottom here, after the “jump”…

UPDATE 2: I had a chance to talk with Zuckerberg after the event, and it’s clear that Facebook is laying the groundwork for marketers to use Facebook to reach people in new ways. In particular, he hopes that the number of connections could become a metric for marketing that goes beyond ad impressions or clicks. With the new Pages, he says, “Now, once you have connections to all these people, you have ways to engage them.”

stream.jpg
Another thing: These changes, in particular the “Stream” pictured here, are indeed (as some have speculated) a shot at Twitter. Already, connections are the prime currency there, yet Twitter so far has offered few ways for brands—whether they be companies or individuals like Robert Scoble or Barack Obama—to filter and control messages. Zuckerberg, not surprisingly and probably correctly, thinks real-time communications won’t be limited to one platform like Twitter. So the battle begins…

And here's Mark:

He talks about how much more information people are sharing since Facebook started in 2004. Facebook built more applications, and in 2006 hit an inflection point where people got more interested in what people are doing in real time.

A lot more information flow is happening through these streams. Information flow is just going to get faster and faster.

Twitter doing really interesting things in terms of the pace of information moving more quickly. And MySpace. We really admire what they're doing.

Today, going to talk about a few steps to move more in that direction. Two initial steps to be announced today, by Chris Cox, Facebook's director of product development.

Chris Cox: News Feed (the stream of real-time information and updates on people's Facebook pages) is really why I came here. When he was interviewing for the job, he was impressed with the social graph they showed him. It's this graph of who's interested in who, who knows who. Idea was to take all this personalized info and turn it into a kind of personalized newspaper for people.

I rode back to school and I called my mom and said have you ever heard of Facebook? She said no. I said, OK, I'm going to have to drop out of school to do this. Long setup talking about Marshall McLuhan and how institutions arise when things get connected more closely by things like the telegraph and commercial airlines.

More history: The original Facebook was basically an address book. News Feed started in 2006. In 2007, the platform for applications on Facebook was announced. Last year, further redesigned the profile to make the Wall, full of current happenings, more prominent. This caused people to share more.

OK, finally to this year: 175 million active users now, with great variety of needs by various people. From Mark and roomates in 2004 to Barack Obama, New York Times and Cox's grandma today. There's a lot of different needs on the site, we're going to try to accommodate them all, that's what I'm going to talk about today.

More explanation: How sharing works: social graph leads to stream (of voices and conversations) to connect (ways people get to the stream, from PC or phone or whatever).

So, first announcement: Profiles for Everyone: Pages and Profiles become the same thing. So a business or brand essentially can look like a person with a profile. And at the same time, profiles will be able to be open to a large number of people, not just overt friends and family connections.

Launch partners today are CNN, U2 and Barack Obama, among many others. Anderson Cooper, Ashton Kutcher, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Homepage5.jpg
The stream (pictured above) is what's happening. It's as core to us as the social graph. (In other words, Facebook has noticed Twitter!) The stream can be filtered and organized. So... there's a new home page.

Next Wednesday, March 11, that new home page, pictured above, will launch. Current news feed aggregates all of what's happening around you and presents it. Now, the emphasis will be on immediate info. There will be filters to make this manageable. Can filter by family, closest friends, groups like Stanford, and even by applications (that is, only items generated by particular applications).

There will also be highlights on the right side of the page, things that people and brands and companies are publishing.

Now some Q&A:

Q: What are the current restrictions on Profiles that you're now removing?
Cox: Now you can publish status updates to anyone, more than the previous 5,000-person friend limit. If you want to communicate with more than that many people, you need to create a Facebook Page.

Q: What is the new Feed?
Cox: The new feed is more real-time, focusing on sharing and conversations. The current feed is on a schedule, periodically feeding you items.

Q: People don't quite understand the change--what's really changing?
Zuckerberg: We want to converge all of these objects on the site to be similar. We're moving to converge Pages and Profiles closer to each other.

Q: What percentage of users are maxxed out in terms of number of friends? Who are you really trying to serve here with these changes?
Zuckerberg: Less than a 10th of a percent. Want to let companies and public figures be able to communicate with more people, not just "friends." With 175 million users, there's obviously a large range of people who are using the site.

My take on all this: Essentially, it's clear that Facebook is trying to make the service easier for brands of all kinds to have a better, more usable presence online--potentially to millions of people.

Cox: Politicians, journalist, bands--all these people want to distribute information. Athletes, celebrities. Now able to reach many more people and in a more controlled fashion.

Zuckerberg: The concept of being connected with someone has real value. People will also start thinking about connecting with people as something that has value (from a marketing point of view, beyond clicks and impressions).

Q: How are you dealing with the spam issue?
This is why we've emphasized control over the home page. You can click to say you don't want to get those messages, and take them off your page, using filters. (My thought: If this works, it's another challenge to Twitter, which has no filtering despite a clear need for it, except completely unsubscribing to the person.)

Q: To what extent will the new feeds be publicly indexable by search engines?
Much of people's feeds are private, so not on feeds because you have to be logged into an account to see those feeds. But for those who want to publicly share information, over time we'll find ways to get that part of the information indexable. Content on public Pages is already visible to search engines.

Zuckerberg: More sharing means more of that information will be open. Really interesting trend: A lot of people are really open to sharing information because it's not open to everyone. (So presumably a lot of this info will not be publicly available.)

Zuckerberg: This isn't the last time we're going to change this.

The information being shared is happening a lot quicker. Two years from now, maybe with cell phones etc. people will be able to see what's going on right now.

Q: Will this help you better provide targeted advertising?
Zuckerberg: Yes. (Generally--not announcing anything specific on that today.)

Q: Will you add location-based services, like Google Latitude?
Zuckerberg: Probably in the future. The new home page will reflect a faster pace of information. But nothing specific on location-based services yet.

Q: Are you looking at expanding the ability of people to bring in outside content to Facebook?
Zuckerberg: Facebook Connect is a bigger part of the strategy.

And that's it.

Reader Comments

geir Ove Harnes

March 5, 2009 3:27 AM

but we cant share it facebook:-) you should make it easier to share this article-yes I can copy the URL-but where is the sharebutton?

Matt Croft

March 5, 2009 6:09 AM

For a general tasting of the actual users response to the current changes and teh way it is'helping' their business pages see:
http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=54590719821

Hundreds, if not thousands of unsatisfied users. Read the comments there for yourself and decide if this was a great move or another blunder.

Aloha

Hector Santos

March 5, 2009 6:57 AM

(corrected version)

With all due respect to Zuckerberg, he was not an originator with the ideas of telecomputing. He is now discovering what many who have beenin the industry have known for decades, and even then, he is still guessing.

BBSing and social networking started in the early 80s. Since communications were dialup via modems, not PPP, but more importantly represented the local community, this was the beginning of the user sharing network.

The early models of clouds were networks like Fidonet which had zones (continents), nets (regions, states, cities), and nodes (computer) organized all the local BBS systems. Setup a BBS, a Fidonet ompliant
system and you have your first Peer to Peer Mail and File Sharing network.

Since these early days, I still envision the day of the "Personal BBS", where each user will be his own "hosting" system. We even have the domain personalbbs.net all ready. It started as Point Users. The user was not a host, but a user of a existing host. But the vision was scene early own that these users can become host as well - Points, Nodes.

The key point here is the differences between centralization and decentralization.

Before PCs, we were using centralized systems.

With PCs, we became more decentralized in our communications.

With the advent of the internet, we were moving towards the centralization idea again. YAHOO, AOL were the early big BBS examples. More importantly, the local community of users was now dialing up via PPP and was now able to connect to sites outside the local hosting BBS system - the web was born.

A key difference here was authorization vs non-authorization requirements (login). The BBS system was focused on user authorization requirements. The early web was not, it was a more laissez-faire and highly exploited and abused era. But that soon changed as web sites saw value on login concepts - taking back alittle control and at the same time, built a user network for direct marketing avenue. Now everyone has a login concept.

This is when my market started to die. If anyone in our market didn't re-invent itself with internet integration - you died. We migrated in 1996 and we are the Last the (multi-million dollar system) Mohicans - Online Hosting Systems. We survived (http://www.santronics.com).

The irony is we have what everyone is heading to - a centralized system with multiple ways to connect and share information - dialup, internet, mobile - Native GUI, HTML/WEB GUI, text mode using a RPC client/server framework with a strong API system.

But that is not why I'm writing.

I am providing insight.

These systems, like FaceBook, twitter (which btw, I find irony that a TWIT is a BBS term for someone classified with no or low access - a moron) will be facing the delimma of centralization vs decentralization as we all did.

As you see, Facebook already suffered with its first central "control" user sensitive question - do we, as a central resource system own all data stored here?

The different is that as AOL, YAHOO has shown, you can't control the world and the users will get tired of one system, the facebooks, the twitters, the googles over extending themselves beyond what made them popular. They want to host everyone with their own system - and YAHOO, AOL proved that isn't a winning strategy.

The pressures will be to break up, to decentralize, to localize. FaceBook will soon learn that it can not dictate conflictive and unethical policy - even the younsters will grow up, get tired and ask the question:

"Why can't I setup a PERSONAL (BBS) system where we all my personal and exclusive friends can connect with free of the commercial ads, tracking and direct marketing?"

Finally, the real competition is AT&T, VERIZON, COMCAST and others that have close relationships with them, like APPLE with AT&T. They are keeping the centralization idea alive and soon, if we are not careful, everyone will have to pay the TOLL, including FaceBook if they want to be part of the controlled wires by these companies.

This is yet another reason way, in the end, local social systems will prevail.

Good luck Mark!

Hector Santos, CTO
http://www.santronics.com

María Rodríguez

March 5, 2009 7:35 AM

It´s a very interesting article, the website I work for it`s already getting Facebook Connect and obviously got a Facebook Page.

http://www.pezplata.com
http://www.facebook.com/home.php/pages/PezPlatacom/65147246468

Thomas Huynh

March 5, 2009 8:42 AM

Hi Rob, thank you for the updates. Having been on Facebook for about one month, I'd say getting people to visit more often may not be a good goal to shoot because there's a feeling that people visit too often! The "addiction" is what I remember one friend called it. In fact the reason why I deactivated my account was because it was taking too much of my time -- very difficult to ignore otherwise. Would love to hear your and other people's thoughts on this. Thomas

TONY

March 5, 2009 11:03 AM

YA, THIS WAS A BAD IDEA, AGAIN!

Mik McManus (Socialonics)

March 5, 2009 6:14 PM

I enjoy the commentary of the sceptics and "experts".
Perhaps though we should start to accept the evolution of the web and the web user experience? Then we can embrace this opportunity to leverage the social mechanisms online to make a less "robotic" internet experience and get back to the days of the "human" web. Humans interacting with humans.
Utilising the web as the users voice dictates. We have to stop forcing classic "business" models down the throat of the web user?

In the new world, the web is only as good as the users experiences dictate. Business will never own the web. Facebook is proving the above is true. Not a fad, not a fashion statement but a valid reflection of the masses desire to have a web that is social. Public profile pages are a natural progression. They are a subtle but essential progression of what I would term Web 3.0!
Fortunately, businesses will no longer be able to dictate to the users......resistance is futile!! :)
THE WEB IS DEAD, LONG LIVE ZUCKERBERG!!!!!

Chris

March 6, 2009 7:49 AM

I'd like to remind you of the .tel domains! This is the same kind of profiling that FB and others are doing, but with government sanctioned directories and global distribution. Keep an eye out because FB won't be as relevant when these domains are finally utilized. These beta apps like FB, Twitter, MySpace are all test platforms for a global directory of objects such as individuals, businesses, Governments and other organizations. The definitions and designations of the relationships between these objects will be globally centralized, but the data and application distibuted. Watch out! You might all get what you're asking for! Centralized database of all (relevant) things on earth, finally a use for IPv6. We should all be screaming for open access to this data and schemas and no taxes on membership. Cheers.

Rob Banks

March 7, 2009 3:02 AM

Good work Mark. As a user of many websites such as MySpace, Twitter and StumbleUpon, blah blah blah, I can say you are keeping well ahead of the pack. I could already do on Facebook what can be done on Twitter because I use the Share function often, which means all those that 'follow' me would get my FB 'tweet'. there is one thing that all you CEO's on the web had better realise, advertising is liked by some hated by others and it doesn't matter in which medium it comes, your letterbox, TV, radio, papers, magazines or the Web. Time to redress the cash flow between producer, advertiser and media provider, at this point in time the ad men are getting paid way too much and not paying enough.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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