ISA 2011: Fireside Chat with Facebook CTO Bret Taylor

Facebook chief technology officer Bret Taylor is on stage here at Inside Social Apps. He’s being interviewed by Inside Network founder Justin Smith.

The live transcript (paraphrased in parts and edited for brevity)

JS: How was the last year?

BT: Going in, we were trying to build a scalable solution to distribution and spam. Not all users liked how it had worked. We cut the number of policies in half, cut spam by 95%. Also cut human interaction with app developers at the same time. Went into the year with those goals. Coming into the end of the year, we doubled down to reintroduce growth. We added changes to communication channels [Ed. like third party notifications]. There were successes like CityVille.

JS: Can Facebook do a good job for people who want it to be a games platform, and those who don’t?

BT: We’re closer to that vision by an order of magnitude. People who play games on Facebook aren’t self-described gamers. Just like people who play solitaire don’t describe themselves as hardcore gamers. Not just partitioning. Way to make sure that every piece of content, every interaction has quality we can provide. Even though you might not be a hardcore gamer, you might like to play a lot. Added in notifications because we felt more confident about our systems. We’re largest source of traffic now for the most sites on the web.

JS: Does Facebook want games on Facebook?

BT: Absolutely. It’s about baking social into core interactions.

JS: Many developers are focused on mobile. Obviously Facebook has spent a lot of time building mobile relationships. At the same time, some challenges with making social really work well in mobile app environment. What does Facebook plan to do?

BT: Mobile is primary focus for our platform this year. People who use mobile are twice as active as those who just use on desktop. That portion of our user base is growing quite a bit. Really like to extend Facebook to all mobile devices. Either building console game on Playstation 3, building iPhone app, or mobile web site, web site, Facebook available for all of them.

About reducing friction. We launched single sign-on a few months ago. Next time you go to another app, you don’t need to re-implement password. Flixster has seen 300% increase in signups just from that change. People building canvas, also building mobile version, can bring with high conversion rate.

JS: Any other product stuff?

BT: What else is changing for developers? How can devs make sure users don’t bail out when they come to Facebook? When we update Facebook, we ahve to update seven different versions: Facebook.com, m.facebook.com, touch.facebook.com, iPhone app, Android app, Blackberry app, and a bunch from people who have built custom versions into their own OSs. Incredible challenge. You end up picking and choosing platforms even though your goal is to reach everyone. Most people in Silicon Valley believe in HTML5. Maybe we’re a little ahead of the curve. 125M using HTML5 with mobile Facebook already. Compelling, even graphically compelling, become more mature platform. We’re going to be investing a lot in investing in HTML5 products, releasing more tools here for developers. Help people get distribution.

JS: So, you’re cleaning up HTML5 for developers?

BT: We want to make sure that user experience is awesome. Lots of quirks with newer techs like HTML5. Thanks to tremendous investment by Apple and Google into Webkit, but still a ways to go. We feel that this is really the direction we want to go.

JS: Anything in particular that Apple and Google are doing?

BT: Can’t say enough about those two investing in browsers. Really great.