Mark Zuckerberg Gives Awkward, Sweaty Interview at D8: Touches on Privacy and Scandal

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Unlike his D8 predecessor Steve Jobs, who spoke eloquently, frankly, and insightfully during his interview, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg seemed to have trouble answering questions concisely, and his on-stage sweating has made for a few pun headlines ("Great Perspirations," remarked Forbes). Zuckerberg is embroiled in a scandal, yes, but so is Jobs—the problem is that while Jobs spoke of the stolen iPhone drama with force and conviction, Zuckerberg seemed to stumble his way through questions about privacy.

All Things D's liveblog captures the rambling, buzzwordy nature of the interview pretty well. In response to the question "Why are you making me take steps to protect my information," he responded with a long soliloquy on "serendipitous connections." When asked why certain public features force users to opt-out, rather than choosing to opt-in, he responded that Facebook tries to find a balance, that making everything opt-in would "create more friction."

Repeatedly, it seems, Zuckerberg either ignored or talked his way around a question. When asked what instant personalization really means, he "fumbles" (in the words of All Things D) and speaks abstractly about "the people-centric Web." Several references are made to his excessive sweating—I don't want to draw any particular conclusions, but his perspiration was even mentioned on stage when moderator Walt Mossberg asked if he'd like to remove his sweatshirt. All Things D says he's "literally dissolving in a lake of his own sweat."

But he did deliver an answer, or at least a response, to those college-era instant messages that have cropped up in relation to his early years as a hacker:

When I was in college I did a lot of stupid things and I don’t want to make an excuse for that. Some of the things that people accuse me of are true, some of them aren’t. There are pranks, IMs. I started building this when I was around 19 years old, and along the way, a lot of stuff changed. We went from building a service in a dorm room to running a service that 500 million people use.

I'd love to hear what you all think about that point. There are different perspectives on his teenage shenanigans. Some think that those IMs represent a disregard for privacy that can be traced to the present day. Others remember that we all said and did things at that age that we regret, that we wouldn't do today, and that don't necessarily reflect the beliefs or inclinations of our adult selves.

But it's clear that Zuckerberg is a novice interviewee, possibly shaken by the recent scandal his company's undergone. I'm not sure why he didn't just plan out his answers beforehand—none of them are curveballs, and he could have had somebody write him out some nice, clean answers. At least next time he'll know to wear a short-sleeve shirt.

Dan Nosowitz, the author of this post, can be followed on Twitter, corresponded with via email, and stalked in San Francisco (no link for that one—you'll have to do the legwork yourself).

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