5 Facebook revelations from Mark Zuckerberg's TechCrunch Disrupt interview
Facebook is focused on creating a better mobile experience, the company intends to build a search engine in the future, and, for the last time, Facebook is not building a smartphone, OK? Those are the big takeaways from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's first public interview since the world's largest social network became a publicly traded company in May.
Instagram's 100 million
Facebook's acquisition in April of Instagram, the photo-sharing service, recently closed and Zuckerberg talked about the purchase for the first time. The Facebook CEO didn't go into any specific details about why the social network bought Instagram other than to say Facebook acquired the service to carry out a specific product plan cooked up by Zuckerberg and Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom. Zuckerberg also said that Instagram recently passed 100 million registered users. "They're killing it," the Facebook cofounder said.
Facebook phone? Nonsense!
Forget all the rumors you've heard about Facebook hiring engineers to develop smartphone hardware. Or the other rumor that Facebook is breaking down its mobile service into a multitude of smartphone apps that could serve as a core set of apps for a mobile OS featuring apps such as Messenger and Facebook Camera.
Just forget all that, because Facebook isn't building a phone, according to Zuckerberg. "It's so clearly the wrong strategy for us," he said, adding later that "The [Facebook] phone just doesn't make any sense for us." Instead, the company is focused on building a system that can integrate into the multitude of popular devices and technology platforms people want to use.
HTML 5: Oops
Facebook wasted two years trying to use HTML 5 Web-based code as Facebook's core technology for mobile apps instead of creating experiences written in native code for the Android and iOS platforms, Zuckerberg said. The Facebook chief called the company's HTML 5 bet "the biggest mistake we made as a company."
Facebook was often criticized for creating slow and clunky mobile apps, but that changed in late August when the company released an overhauled and much improved Facebook app for iOS. The app was built using native code instead of wrapping a glorified Web app inside a native iOS wrapper, the company's previous approach.
But Facebook isn't giving up on HTML 5 in mobile, just reducing its importance. Zuckerberg said more people are currently using the mobile Web versions of Facebook such as touch.facebook.com than the number of Android and iOS Facebook app users combined.
In recent years, there were many reports of grandiose plans at Facebook for using HTML 5 such as Project Spartan, a Web-based platform for mobile devices that would replace its mobile apps.
Improved Android app coming soon
Facebook's native iOS app provides a faster experience, and that same approach of building an app using native code is coming soon to the Android, according to Zuckerberg. It's not clear when the overhauled Facebook app for Android would launch. "It'll be ready when it's ready," Zuckerberg said.
Facebook Search? Maybe later
Zuckerberg fired a shot at Google, saying that Facebook intends to build a search engine, but not just yet. "Search is interesting," Zuckerberg said, because the site handles about one billion queries a day, " and we're not even trying." Zuckerberg then went on to describe his vision of search as a tool that answers questions similar to Wolfram|Alpha or select Google queries for the latest sports scores, weather and flight times.
Facebook's current search vision doesn't sound all that different than what Google has been trying to achieve with its mobile search products or what we've seen from Bing's recent social push. Facebook's search engine would be built around your friend network so if you wanted to find a great sushi restaurant in New York City, for example, Facebook could deliver results for places your friends have visited and liked in the past six months. If you're researching a company before applying for a job, Facebook search could deliver a list of friends or friends of friends that work there so you could get insider impressions about the workplace.
For now, however, this is just a vision; the company is not actively pursuing a search strategy, according to Zuckerberg. Although it does have a search team working on the company's current search offering that helps you find people and Facebook pages. "At some point we'll do it," Zuckerberg said. Search "is one obvious thing that would be interesting for us to do in the future if we got to a state where we were excited about it."
Zuckerberg also dropped a few interesting numbers and statistics beyond Instagram's 100 million users: around 100,000 mobile apps have built-in Facebook integration, 235 million people play games monthly inside Facebook, and Facebook's mobile users have started viewing more than double the amount of news feed stories per day since the company rolled out the new iOS app.