My Interview With Mark Zuckerberg

Yesterday afternoon I had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Mark Zuckerberg. I should note the presence of Brandee Barker, the head of Facebook’s public relations division, as well as the lack of audio or video equipment. I was only allowed to take notes while speaking with Mark. Overall though, it was a great opportunity to speak with the young CEO who has become regarded by many as one of the next industry luminaries.

The first topic of discussion with Mark was about the highly buzzed keynote interview that took place on Sunday. I asked him what his position was and just as he has stated in other press statements, he believes that the reaction was overblown. Read more from Brian Solis if you want to get the other side of the story. Ultimately the reaction may have been somewhat overblown but it definitely wasn’t the type of interview the audience was looking for.

I asked Mark about the 5,000 friend limit that users are currently restricted for and if they plan on changing their policy. His response was different than I would have imagined. Zuckerberg claimed that there is more of a technical limitation then anything else and that it is currently a low priority. I received a different response from one Facebook employee later that night who claimed that it would only be a few lines of code to change. I’m sure there is more to it than that but it definitely is not a high priority at Facebook currently.

Next Sunday will be the beginning of March madness and with it comes the yearly brackets. Over the past few years CBS has worked with Facebook to provide a brackets application where you can compete with your friends. This year Facebook blasted out a reminder to thousands (if not millions) of college students telling them to use the application. This is a strategy that many application developers have criticized since they don’t have the same ability to mass message users via their inbox.

I asked Mark about this controversial promotion and he said that they had done it in previous years and that this year they had actually messaged less users. He also emphasized that Facebook does not want to compete with other application developers. This appeared to be a rare instance according to Mark but in my opinion it was still a move that goes against their policy of providing a level playing field for competition.

I attempted to get personal with Mark and asked him about how he handles life in the spotlight and being a young CEO working for a company valued at over $15 billion. Mark’s response focused on building an organization for scale and removing many of the responsibilities from himself and placing them on others. Perhaps I was looking for an answer such as, “I go to the gym daily,” but then again I don’t know Mark well enough.

One of the thing that I agreed with Mark on is the future of the social web 5 years from now. Mark believes that the social web will move away from social networks He acknowledged that many of the new applications will move outside of Facebook. I frequently call social a feature but Mark stated that “social is a platform not a feature.”

Recently Shimon Peres suggested that Israelis and Jews worldwide use Facebook to fight anti-semitism in addition to inviting Mark Zuckerberg to Israel. I asked him about his thoughts on Facebook as a tool to fight anti-semitism and if Facebook would take proactive measures to fight against it. Mark believes that Facebook need to focus on building useful communication tools and that the users can use these tools to connect and generate more worldly perspectives. As such Facebook does not need to be proactive about it. When asked about whether he will visit Israel next year, he said maybe.

I mentioned to Mark that Facebook needs to revamp their messaging system and he agreed. After giving him a brief overview of my Facebook messaging system theory and how they could use the site to revolutionize email, Mark said that they would be working to provide new tools to users in regards to messaging. He also stated that the newsfeed is the closest thing to the theoretical messaging system that I briefly explained to Mark.

The last thing I asked Mark is if the viralness has ended on Facebook. Ultimately, Zuckerberg stated that the viralness was done for many applications and that Facebook needs to incentivize differently. Instead of a good application being one that has a lot of users, there will be other incentives. He didn’t elaborate on what the new incentives would be. I also asked about whether or not the system for determining what are “good applications” would be automated. Mark stated that they would be automated.

My brief 30-minute coversation with Mark Zuckerberg was a good one and I came away with a little more understanding about him. One thing that Mark continued to ask me about was what developer feedback I was receiving. He is highly invested in making sure that the platform experience is a great one for developers. The overall takeaway from my interview is that Facebook is still working to expand their tools for helping people communicate and Zuckerberg will continue to lead the way.