Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, interviewed Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg at a Huffington Post Advertising Week event in New York.
Sandberg answered questions from Huffington and the audience regarding Facebook's mobile plans, the company's stance on privacy, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's $100 million donation to improve Newark schools, and the movie "The Social Network," which presents an unofficial account of Facebook's early days.
Sandberg offered a glimpse into her life at Facebook (where no one has offices, she noted, and most employees sit next to each other at desks), as well as her close collaboration with Zuckerberg, whom she sits next to. "We reserve the first meeting of the week Monday and the last meeting of the week Friday just for the two of us," she said, noting her life at the "fluid," "informal" Facebook is "very different from my life at Treasury."
Rumors that Facebook has a phone or mobile operating system in the works have been swirling, and Sandberg, who took questions on Facebook's mobile strategy, explained, "We want our technology to be available on every mobile device in the world." She said Facebook currently does not have plans for an advertising network, and shared her vision for the future of the web. The key innovation we should expect to see, according to Sandberg? Personalization.
We've collected some highlights from the discussion below.
On openness online:
Sandberg: Facebook is very open in the sense that we want our technology to be able to be used everywhere. The open/closed debate on the web is very real. [...] Our answer is very clear and the vision on that really comes from Mark, which is that if we're trying to help people share and connect, you have to do that wherever you are. We're not arrogant enough to think all sharing and connecting will happen on Facebook.com. We want people to share and connect wherever they are. [...] We want our technology to be available on every mobile device in the world.
On the next major innovation we can expect to see:
The future is one of personalization. Basically, mass market products have always been produced. They still always will be produced, but they'll be delivered to people in a much more personal way. [...] Going to website that's totally impersonal I think will be a thing of the past. [...] Once people have experienced something personal that's around their identity and their friends, they won't want to go back to something that's targeterd at the whole world. I think we'll see more and more products and services do things like the HuffPost has done and take that step of trying to deliver a more personal experience to users.
On Facebook's mobile plans:
Saying mobile is going to be big is silly. Mobile is big. Mobile is getting bigger. [...] Our goal is we want to make Facebook available everywhere on every device. That's actually complicated in a world of so many different mobile carriers, so many different operating systems, so many different devices all over the world, and tablet computing and desktop computing. [...] We are working at making our apps work as well as possible on every device given the limited resources that we have.
We've been very focused on privacy from the beginning and I think our privacy controls got too complicated, which led to some of the controversy, so we simplified them. The trick for us is, as we roll out every single product, to make sure people have control of their information and know how to use that control. [...] People will only share information if they feel that they're controlling it. If when they share information they feel that they don't control it, that sharing will stop.
On Mark Zuckerberg's decision to create a charitable foundation, Startup: Education, focused (at least initially) on helping Newark schools:
He and his girlfriend Priscilla spent a long time deciding where they wanted to focus and they wanted to focus on education. For him, the real moment where he thought, "Something needs to be fixed in American education" was not just the results we see, which are not keeping up with the rest of the world and are a huge competitive problem for the longterm economics of the country, but [was] actually when [Priscilla] graduated from college. [Zuckerberg's girlfriend Priscilla] wanted to be a teacher and everyone's reaction to that, he thought, was so surprising. Everyone was like, "Wow, that's nice of you" rather than, "Oh, wow, that's really important for society." [...] This is about trying to give every kid in America, starting with Newark, the [opportunity for] the same education that he had and trying to take teachers and value them in society for the impact that they have. He said this, but no job is more leveraged. [...] It's a job we have to work to value for the impact that it has.
On "The Social Network":
I saw the movie a couple of months ago. [...] I'm very familiar with real story. The movie is really fun, and it's very Hollywood. Mark's real life, which is kind of sitting with his friends in front of his computer ordering pizza, just really wouldn't make for a very interesting movie. Who wants to go see that for two hours? You know sometimes they order different pizza, sometimes different friends would work on different parts of the code. [...] It's fiction. It's very Hollywood.
(See Mark Zuckerberg's take on the film here)