Exclusive: Discussing the Future of Facebook with CEO Mark Zuckerberg

FACEBOOKThere’s a lot happening at Facebook these days. From advertising to payments, search to mobile, platform to privacy, Facebook has teams working on a spectrum of products to serve the company’s 200 million active users – 100 million of which log in every day – in the years ahead.

Since Facebook was founded in 2004, it has repeatedly evolved to make it easier for people to share and consume information in trusted and more efficient ways. Facebook has always focused on establishing real identity and user profiles, and that identity continues to be foundational for all of the company’s products and monetization plans today.

In late 2006, Facebook created the now-famous News Feed, making it easier than ever for users to keep track of friends’ activity on the site. Facebook then launched the Facebook Platform in 2007, enabling thousands of developers to leverage Facebook’s data to create a new wave of web applications with deeper social context than had been possible before. Facebook extended that context to the rest of the web, desktop, and mobile through Facebook Connect late last year.

Around that same time the company also flirted with acquiring Twitter, the hot “micro-blogging” service, but a deal was never reached. And just a few months ago, Facebook replaced the algorithmic News Feed with a stream of real-time updates on the home page.

With all of these changes in the core product alone – not to mention advertising, mobile, and many changes to Platform – where is Facebook going next? We spoke with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg yesterday at the company’s new Palo Alto headquarters about how he sees communication, commerce, advertising, and the Platform continuing to evolve in Facebook’s future.

Justin Smith: We’ve seen Facebook evolve in several phases over the years, most recently with the home page stream. How do you see communication evolving going forward?

Mark Zuckerberg: There are a bunch of aspects about how communication is evolving that are big trends in the world – some of which we’re touching, and some of which are just broad that we’re not affecting but that we adopt.

The biggest one that we are pushing is Facebook has people’s real identity. You are yourself on Facebook. You connect to your real friends, they’re real relationships. You put in real information, it’s really you. That’s really the basis of what we’ve been calling the “social graph” since the Platform launched in 2007. It’s the idea that you are the people and the things that you’re connected to. The social graph is this concept that exists in the world that we try to map out as much as we can on the site.

Now on top of that, you can build different applications. And some of them – whether they’re status updates or messages or wall posts – are simple communication tools that are built on top of real identity. The reason why a lot of people use the Inbox on Facebook instead of email, for a lot of cases, is you don’t need to know someone’s email address – you can just send it to their identity directly.

Status updates are really cool because you can see what’s going on with this real person. Wall posts are cool because I can go to someone’s profile, and even if I don’t know the person writing on it, I know that here’s someone you’re connected to and here’s what they’re saying, and I can click on them and get that context. Real identity really helps people communicate a lot and is really powerful.

Another trend is just that content production is getting simpler. Over time, content production has gone into smaller and smaller bits, and therefore more and more of it happens – there’s this elastic function in there. For example, few people wrote books, more people write blogs, even more people write status updates, and who knows what the next thing will be. There were few professional photographers doing really intense photography, but then a lot of people got digital cameras and uploaded photo albums, and even more take mobile photos just one picture at a time. That’s another big trend.