Facebook is the world’s most social platform, but the man who started it all hasn’t spoken much recently. At TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF event in San Francisco Tuesday, Facebook CEO and Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg — dressed in a grey shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes — kept a happy tone as he discussed his company’s focus on mobile, the brain drain, its initial public offering, search, and his vision for the future. This was Zuckerberg’s first public address since Facebook’s IPO in May.
Hundreds of attendees and a few-dozen reporters and photographers waited eagerly for Zuckerberg to talk about a variety of topics. Moderator Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, dove right into the heart of matters, asking Zuckerberg about his reaction to Facebook’s IPO and whether or not he would’ve done anything differently. Zuckerberg replied that while his company cares about those who have invested, it is more interested in improving the product:
The performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing. We care about our shareholders, and the commitment that we made is that we’re going to execute this mission to make the world more connected, and we’re going to do the things that we think are going to build value in the long term. Over the next three to five years, I think the biggest question that is on everyone’s minds is, I think, is really going to be how well we do on mobile.
Zuckerberg also addressed the supposed brain drain facing the company, as key executives take up office with competitors and other tech firms:
Some people are going to look at this and maybe some people are going to leave, but I think it’s actually a great time for people to join and it’s a great time for people to stay, and we are seeing that.
Over the next half-hour, Zuckerberg talked about how important mobile will be to Facebook’s future, whether or not the company’s stock value has hurt employment and recruitment, what search means to the site, and how Facebook will work with Instagram. The company’s most famous member also shared Facebook’s goals for the future.
Zuckerberg explained (as he has done before) that the biggest factor in the company’s success is how Facebook can enhance its mobile experience and find some way to turn mobile ads into a money-making venture. He copped that the company’s biggest mistake was relying on HTML5 instead of a native platform for mobile apps.
He said that since the social network updated its iOS apps, the amount of stories consumed on the news feed doubled. Zuckerberg also reassured the crowd that an Android upgrade is coming. It will have a similar infrastructure to the iOS app, but he stopped short of saying when the update will be released.
Before, Facebook had a core team producing 90 percent of the company’s mobile code. Now, that has been spread out companywide, with every team integrating mobile into their duties. Zuckerberg called Facebook “a mobile company.”
Zuckerberg — who claimed that he wrote the 2,179-word founder’s letter from the site’s S1 on his phone — noted that Facebook’s mobile apps have to improve among all platforms:
The level of mobile experiences that are out there are so good that good enough isn’t good enough. We have to have experiences of the highest quality.
Zuckerberg also laughed as he turned down the thought — twice — of Facebook developing its own phone:
It doesn’t move the needle for us. We want to build a system that’s deeply integrated into every platform people use.
For the first time, Zuckerberg spoke publicly about Facebook’s plans for Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app the company recently acquired. He stressed that Facebook won’t just swallow Instagram for its technology or talent, but work with it as if it was something developed on the Facebook platform. Now that they’re a lot closer, Facebook can start giving Instagram higher priority. Zuckerberg said he’s still a fan of entrepreneurship and loved what the Instagram team was doing, talking about the site’s purchase more like a partnership, instead of an acqui-hire:
We think Instagram is amazing and we want to help it grow to hundreds of millions of users … We have no agenda as to making them go into our infrastructure … We’re just going to try to do all of the things they would do if they were an open graph partner, but we can prioritize them more highly.
It’s no secret that Facebook is trying to get the most bang for its buck from its search bar. Companies are throwing money at Facebook trying to leapfrog competitors via sponsored results. Zuckerberg said the company is intrigued by what it can do with search, noting that there are more than 1 billion queries through the social network each day. He wants the search engine within Facebook to aid users who want to know things such as which restaurants nearby their friends have favorably reviewed and who has worked at a company they may be applying to. Zuckerberg told attendees Facebook has something to offer that Google and Yahoo don’t — a base of first-hand connections:
These are queries that you can do with Facebook, when we built out this system, that you can’t do anywhere else. We’re doing a lot of stuff. That’s one kind of obvious thing that would be interesting for us to do in the future.
Where does the company go from here? Oddly enough, Facebook’s stock rose 4.6 percent following his speech. But the social network still has a long way to go. When Arrington asked Zuckerberg if he’s still having fun, he replied that fun isn’t really the intent of what he’s doing:
It’s not really about fun, it’s about mission. I would rather be in this cycle where people underestimate us … It gives us a good latitude to go out and take some big bets and do some things that really excite and amaze people. Over the long term, there’s a huge amount of interesting stuff that we are working on … I just want to build good stuff. The legacy of this company should be that we’ve connected everyone in the world and they can share anything they want … Some days are hard and some days kick ass, but I think everyone is amped.
Readers: What else do you want to know from Zuckerberg?