Just as Tim Cook faced tricky questions from the stage and the audience at the D11 event yesterday, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg took questions in the hot seat today. She was careful about what she revealed about Facebook's present and future, as you'd expect. But there were gentle hints:
Sandberg wouldn't talk about merger and acquisition plans at all, let alone rumors the company is in the middle of a bidding war for mapping startup Waze. But she was prepared to discuss mapping. Facebook has to "prioritize ruthlessly," she said, and while it would be great if it could build an app, it's not going to. "Or, for instance, an ad network. It’s not a bad idea but it’s not a priority for us. It’s a non-goal not because it’s a bad idea but because we’re doing other stuff."
I’m okay with targeting—good targeting, at least. But we can improve our targeting, and you don’t need to be targeted just because you’re a woman—we have lots of other information about you.
Several reports have suggested that teens are fleeing Facebook for other social media networks like Twitter or Tumblr. This may be more problematic for Facebook than the exodus of older users, since teens are online more and may be expected to stay with a service like Facebook once they've invested a lot of time and personal data into it.
Sandberg admitted it was "absolutely true" that teens are using other services in addition to Facebook: "They’re using Tumblr more. They’re using Twitter more." But that's okay in her book because "they continue to be active and engaged Facebook users," and that's what the company needs.
She didn't address the question of Facebook's growth, or its plans for keeping teens engaged over the longer term.
Asked about how Mark Zuckerberg is dealing with Sandberg's new celebrity status, Sandberg said:
We sit next to each other, we Facebook message each other a lot. We give each other feedback every Friday. Remember that when I took the job, I was going to work for a 23-year-old with a $15 billion valuation.
They are, at minimum, Facebook friends.
Asked what's up with Home, Sandberg said it is still in its early stages.
It’s an incredibly powerful device, and an incredibly social device but right now it’s designed around tasks and apps.
When asked if she considered Home a success, she seemed curt: "It's V.1."