Mobile Is the Main Question

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-09-12 Print this article Print


Mobile Is the Main Question

What shareholders and nonshareholders alike wanted to find out directly from the CEO's lips is exactly how Facebook intends to extend its business fishing nets by moving more effectively into the mobile space. Zuckerberg and his generation do everything on their phones--he admitted as much during his discussion--and it's a painful fact that Facebook on phones hasn't worked very well. After all, it was designed expressly for large screens.

"Over the next three to five years, the biggest question that's on everyone's mind, and that's really going to determine how we do, is really going to be how well we do with mobile," Zuckerberg said. "We think we're going to make more money on mobile ads. We've had right-side column ads, and it's been a multibillion-dollar business for us. But we can't do that on mobile devices. It's clearly going to have to be different."

Zuckerberg said Facebook product teams are developing new features with advertising fundamentally integrated into every part of the site. "I think we know that we're going to do well on that," he said. "The question is getting there."

Until only last spring, Facebook ran exactly no ads on its mobile applications. The company has a lot of catching up to do, Zuckerberg admitted.

Biggest Strategic Error: HTML5

Responding to a question by Arrington, Zuckerberg revealed that the company's biggest strategic mistake thus far was focusing too much on the development of HTML5 Web applications instead of native apps for devices.

Many people in IT already knew that HTML5 is a mere stop-gap between HTML4 and HTML6--and that's part of what was surprising about Facebook's strategy. It's no secret that HTML5 performance is sluggish when stacked up against native apps; that is pretty much standard across mobile IT.

Zuckerberg said he heard loud and clear from Facebook users as they became more and more frustrated--especially with the agonizingly slow (at times) iOS Facebook app.

"We burned through two years on that," Zuckerberg said. "It probably was the biggest strategic mistake we made."

In light of this, Facebook updated its iOS application last month, and it is generally regarded as being much faster. Zuckerberg said that more than twice as many stories are being consumed in the mobile Newsfeed since the update. He also said that more improvements would soon be coming into the app.

Zuckerberg didn't give a time frame about its soon-to-be-upgraded Android app. "It'll be ready when it's ready," he said.

Better Search on the Agenda

Finally, Zuckerberg said that Facebook is redeveloping its search capability into a more useful tool, and thus, a more effective advertising product. Shareholders were undoubtedly encouraged by that news. Facebook's current search feature, which offers up only a few choices and doesn't handle photos and video, is not a go-to feature on the site, to say the least.

Immediately after his appearance at Disrupt, Facebook's stock took a modest but nonetheless impressive jump. The stock was selling at $20.58 Sept. 12, up about 6 percent from the previous day. Considering it had done nothing but fall throughout the summer, this was an accomplishment.

Disrupt is a high-energy, new-generation conference staged Sept. 8 through 12 that includes features such as a "hackathon." It played host to about 350 new and/or startup companies you've never heard of in sectors all over the board, ranging from health care to social applications, from gaming to location-based commerce, and from home services to education.

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features and Analysis at eWEEK. Twitter: @editingwhiz

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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