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]

Read More: Facebook Launches Skype Video Calls, Group Messaging, Hits 750 Million Users [Video]

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20 Comments

  • email ab12

    facebook is so over...why would anyone care about it anymore .... quit wasting space on it

  • dr phillip dibble

    non·plus  (nn-pls)tr.v. non·plussed also non·plused, non·plus·sing also non·plus·ing, non·plus·ses also non·plus·es To put at a loss as to what to think, say, or do; bewilder.
    n. A state of perplexity, confusion, or bewilderment.Come on, fellows, your vocabulary needs some polish. Or, do you mean to imply that Markie, despite being dazed and confused will march on!pad

  • Jim Brady

    Come on, Tyler - don't spend so many words trying to justify the erosion of language through lazy, inaccurate usage. It's just laziness, period. Not some rising new trending. (BTW, it's in the big, fat authoritative dictionaries too. And they don't support the embarrassing, ill-informed stem you'd like to see grow.)

  • jonathanfleming

    Facebook's CEO gets too much negative criticism, the majority is jealousy on the part of less successful people. However, Google should stay in their lane, i.e. search and mobile, Google has the chance to do something very special with mobile and search, I don't think they need this market as much. However, facebook will be more powerful if it follows the plan and keeps evolving. Good to see a company mature by not getting complacent, I cannot wait to see where we go next! Adding skype was very powerful move!

  • Shibu

    I know this has been commented on before. This shows arrogance/ ignorance by  EBB. The word 'nonplussed' is used incorrectly. Your premise is that Zuck is not worried about G+. Using the pun does not make it better - just lamer. Bad use of language and article writing. At least put it in quotes. People still appreciate the right use of language.

  • Dorin

    I'm glad that Facebook is "constantly changing" :), not to remain a constant. If FB wouldn't change/improve, then it will be eventually left in the cold, hugging itself, like the girl near Mark, in the photo above. Climate change? Change attire! I know that Mark proclaimed the end of online privacy. But, Mark, ask us beforehand, next time you want to hit us with some privacy-invasive new features. We prefer to opt-in, not opt-out. :)

  • Ben Simerly

    The "nonplussed" explanation was hilarious, and I agree with Fast Company on this one, the old school rhetoric of words not being allowed to evolve gets so tiring.  That said, I have noticed a number of flagrant errors in numerous articles, by multiple authors in the past few weeks on Fast Company.  I noticed that somebody made a comment about it about a month ago so Ive been watching out for it more, and it turns out they were right.  Although, my writing is usually riddled with them, so screw what I say.  But Go Fast company, its the first thing I read every morning.  If you sold it as a morning paper, I would buy it.  Instead I hit refresh all day. 

  • Tyler Gray

    The speed at which our people put together really sharp thoughts on these topics is breathtaking. Ditto the speed at which I and others edit those thoughts as they become really sharp stories. And in the process, sometimes our self-edits and copy editing is slower to the sharpening. We make typos. And then our astute copy editor comes along and catches most of them. But, again, it's way more volume than any newspaper copy editor ever has to deal with. There's no excuse for unchecked copy editing errors. But "incensed?" As in very, very angry? You know the war in Afghanistan has caused the deaths of more than 1,500 soldiers, that Casey Anthony got off, that News of the World hacked dead soldiers' voicemails, that Lloyd Blankenfein got a stock bonus worth $12.6M last year. Just saying. And I'm merely offering a little more context into our own process, too. I really enjoy almost all of our commenters thoughts. Also, nonplussed is not wrong here. Deal. 

  • Shibu

    I concur, Ben. The amateur use of language does impact the credibility of a brand. I'm amazed that this has not been corrected. The reporter is obviously trying to play with the usage of 'plus.' But it skews the direction of the article in the total opposite direction. It shows lack of regard for the elements of article/headline writing as well as understanding of readers on the interwebs. I usually don't post comments but this has me incensed....

  • Ben Miller

    nonplussed: "Surprised and confused so much that they are unsure how to react." Not what the rest of this article says.

  • Tyler Gray

    Thanks for taking time to point this out to us. But I'd suggest you dig a bit deeper. While the short-sleeve-workshirt-frontpocket-dictionary-definition of "nonplussed" is exactly as you stated, there's a whole other definition of the word out there living in the wild--one that, strange as it may seem, means exactly the opposite of what the original definition was. That second, and, I know, zanier, definition is rising up in popularity. It's the one so often found in casual conversation. "Ben's frontal assault on my editing prowess," I might say to a colleague, "left me nonplussed." And I wouldn't be wrong. We had a relatively lengthy discussion about this at the 3 p.m. Grammar Roundtable (the 6 p.m. punctuation breakout session, I'm happy to report, was much less eventful). And we decided that for a variety of reasons, the meaning was clear. This is, after all, the web. Things are more conversational. We often get, to again use the parlance of casual conversation, *jiggy* with language in the name of fun or straight-up freakiness. It can be jarring. It can threaten the pillars of the English you clearly hold dear. But, Ben, I'd boldly ask you to buy a ticket on this linguistic Thunder Mountain Railroad and hang on with both hands. I told my fellow grammarians that you, and people like you, would understand the risk we were taking, the razor's edge we knowingly moonwalked upon. I told my fellows that you wouldn't be offended. Now I see that it may have been, in this one regard, wrong. But I say to you now, Ben, that I will NOT change that headline. I will not be bound by the shackles of stodgy definitions and those that keep them on some sort of cruel life-support. Language is ALIVE, Ben. IT GROWS. IT WILL NOT BE ANYONE'S SLAVE. Wolf Gang.     

  • Shibu

    That is such a lame response, Tyler. The use of the word is plain wrong. If you're trying to be 'punny' use quotes. The headline takes a total opposite direction to the article. Shame on your editor(s).

  • Kit Eaton

    Ah that good ol' 6 p.m. meeting left me entirely nonplussed--I shall carry on using the Oxford comma, damnit.

  • Ben Miller

    You're right, it will not be anyone's slave, including that of the barely-literate masses. As a major publication you have to power to stem the tide of linguistic relativism, but instead you're causing it surge forward!

  • Greg Washington

    I can't wait to see what happens next. When I heard Skype was integrating with Facebook, I got really excited. Still haven't used it yet, but I'm gonna go do that right now!

    P.S. Google really needs to stay in their lane, otherwise their brand value is going to plummet.