Fast Company

Mark Zuckerberg, Nonplussed By Google, Sets Facebook's New Course

With 750 million members, the social network will no longer base success on user numbers but on the cool stuff they make using Facebook.

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This week Google launched its first step in revolutionizing the social network as you know it. And Mark Zuckerberg feels just fine.

At a press conference today to launch the company's new chat features, the Facebook CEO said the entrance of Google and others into the social space "validates" his company's view that social is the wave of the future.

"You’re going to see is a lot of companies that haven’t traditionally looked at social networking in their apps, not just Google, [entering this space]," he said.

Zuckerberg's equanimity stems in part from the fact that his company has a new strategic focus. If the past was about building the social network itself, the future, he said, was about enabling other companies to build new, socially infused applications on top of that.

"Our job is to stay focused on building the best service for that," he said. "And if we do that, then there’s a massive market and a lot of value to be built in the world. And if we don’t, then someone else will do it."

Social networking is at "an inflection point,” Zuckerberg said.

“When you think about what social networking meant for the last five or seven years, since Facebook has been around, the narrative has mostly been around connecting people,” he said. “Until the last couple of years, most people really had open questions about whether social networking was going to become this ... ubiquitous phenomenon.”

"Now," he continued, "the world probably believes it's going to be everywhere"--whether through Facebook or its competitors. “People generally believe that people want to stay connected to their friends and family and coworkers.”

So, the next five years, Zuckerberg said, is no longer going to be about simply creating a place for people to get connected. It’s going to be about all the things you can do once people are connected. Specifically, "What kind of cool stuff you’re going to be able to build and what kind of new social apps you’re going to be able to build, now that you have this wiring in place,” he said.

The "Baked In" social media concept, in which companies integrate social interaction into the core functionality of their products, is a development we've followed closely, too.

The shift from buiding a social network to building things you can do on top of a social infrastructure, Zuckerberg said, will be as profound as a decade ago when companies that had traditionally built applications for desktop computer pivoted and started building apps for the web. The new platform offered new opportunities, and companies shifted their strategies to take advantage of it.

To that end, Zuckerberg said, Facebook will no longer be tracking its progress in terms of numbers of users. That metric made sense for the old narrative, when the growth in the company’s user base was an indicator of whether this crazy new social networking thing really had legs.

Going forward, Facebook will be looking to other metrics that better reflect the idea of social as a platform. One of those, Zuckerberg said, is the number of items (links, stories, posts) being shared. Today, 4 billion items are shared on Facebook every day, and that number is doubling every year, Zuckerberg said.

Expect to see more features coming out of the company that encapsulate this idea of social as a platform, Zuckerberg told his audience. Today, he said, was “the beginning of launching season,” and the company plans to unveil a series of new features in the coming months.

E.B. Boyd is FastCompany.com’s Silicon Valley reporter. Twitter. Email.

[Homepage image: Flickr user Darwin Bell; top image: Flickr user kohtzy]

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