Notes from Mark Zuckerberg at Future of Web Apps Expo in London

Mark Zuckerberg spoke here at the Future of Web Apps Expo in London earlier today in his first visit to the city in 10 years. As is usual for these PR-controlled events, there were no startling revelations today, but there were a few interesting hints. Generally, the theme of “enabling people to share” ran through most of the answers.

Here are a few highlights from Zuckerberg’s comments:

  • The vision of Facebook Connect is to enable people to do on the rest of the web what they currently do on Facebook.
  • There’s no firm launch date for Connect, but it’s expected to be within the next few months.
  • As everyone already knows, Facebook does not want to encourage third party applications that are only interested in occupying profile space. The recent redesign has been specifically developed to encourage applications that enable sharing between users. Part of this is the prioritisation of feeds over profile boxes.
  • Talk of the payment system was downplayed, and was even referred to as “the rumoured payment system.” (It’s more than a rumour, given the solicitation for developers to sign up for a beta programme last year, but obviously there’s nothing to be announced imminently.)
  • Mark talked about his loose theory of a “Moore’s Law” for content sharing: the amount of sharing that goes on is growing exponentially over time.
  • Asked about Open Auth, Open ID and other standards initiatives, the view expressed was very much along the lines of not having done it yet as opposed to not wanting to follow open standards at all. Mark’s view of Facebook as it stands was that “It’s more closed than we want it to be.” However, he believes Facebook’s implementation of things such as the Platform APIs and FBML are more developed than their open standard equivalents.
  • Asked if he would build Facebook (or any web application) the same today as he did four years ago he said no, especially given advances in cloud computing and the availability of other sites-as-platforms.
  • Despite running a multi-billion dollar company, he still goes into the code base and fixes bugs from time-to-time as a way to keep in touch with how the site is being developed and abstracted.

The views that Mark Zuckerberg expressed are very much those of a technology-focused entrepreneur, especially his vision for changing the world through developing better web applications. To some of us this may seem somewhat idealistic but it’s hard to knock the aspiration.

Moves towards more open standards and the growth of Facebook as a platform all bode well for the development community too, although I get the feeling it will remain more of an aspiration than a reality for some time to come. Whether he’d go as far as ever signing Facebook up to Open Social is probably doubtful.

As Facebook grows and, inevitably, starts needing to make money it will be interesting to see when his technical and ideological approach will yield to commercial forces within the company.

A video of the Mark Zuckerberg interview should be appearing on the FOWA video page over the next couple of days and there’s also an interview with the BBC available here.