In his first interview since the IPO, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told the audience at TechCrunch Disrupt that mobile is “good” for the social network. He addressed mobile advertising and app performance issues, dispelled rumors of a Facebook phone and shed light on the Instagram acquisition.
“Over the next three to five years, the biggest question that’s on everyone’s mind, and that’s really going to determine how we do, is really going to be how well we do with mobile,” he said.
Until six months ago the company did not run a single ad on mobile, and investors and tech pundits have questioned whether Facebook’s business can thrive as mobile adoption grows. Zuckerberg looked to address the outstanding potential of mobile ads as a source of revenue.
“We think we’re going to make more money on mobile ads,” he said. “We’ve had right-hand-column ads and it’s been great, a multi-billion-dollar business. But on mobile, we can’t do that. It’s clearly going to have to be different.”
He added that more users were using Facebook on mobile and mobile users were likely to be daily active users.
When asked about mobile being a strength or weakness for Facebook, he was candid in admitting that the company’s biggest mistake was focusing too much on HTML5 instead of native applications. It turned out that HTML5 performance couldn’t compare to more native apps, and users grew frustrated with the slowness the iOS app in particular.
“We burned two years,” he said. “It may turn out it was the biggest strategic mistake we made.”
Facebook updated its iOS application to be significantly faster last month. The new native app is regarded as a large improvement to the prior iteration. Zuckerberg said that more than twice as many stories are being consumed in the mobile News Feed since the update. He also hinted that more product and feature changes would be coming to the app soon, as the most recent update was solely focused on speed.
Zuckerberg confirmed that the company is working on its Android apps as well, but he didn’t offer a timeframe. “It’ll be ready when it’s ready,” he said.
Zuckerberg said that previously there was a core team producing the company’s mobile code, but now several teams contribute to mobile products. This is part of Facebook’s goal to be a “mobile company.”
However, Zuckerberg shot down the idea of a Facebook phone once again, claiming it “doesn’t move the move the needle for us. We want to build a system that’s deeply integrated into every platform people use.”
The CEO also revealed some background on the Instagram acquisition. He said the companies began developing a relationship because of Instagram’s Open Graph integration. As they came up with more features and things they’d like to work together on, Zuckerberg began to think it might be more strategic for the companies to come together as one. He iterated today, though, that Instagram will continue to operate as a standalone app under its existing brand.
“We think Instagram is amazing and we want to help it grow to hundreds of millions of users,” he said.