Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook's biggest mistake

September 12, 2012, 2:19 pm Kashmir Hill Forbes

"We burned two years not working on mobile."


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Back in 2010, Mark Zuckerberg was roundly criticised for saying, in response to a question about why there was no Facebook app for iPad, that the iPad wasn’t mobile. “iPad’s not mobile, next question,” the Facebook CEO responded. “It’s a computer, that’s a different thing.”

Two years later, Facebook does have an iPad app, and Zuckerberg has changed his tune when it comes to the importance of mobile and the ability to access Facebook on hand-held computing devices we carry around with us. Speaking to Michael Arrington at TechCrunch Disrupt on Tuesday, Zuckerberg admitted that Facebook’s biggest mistake was that “we burned two years not working on mobile.” (Not Timeline. Sorry, haters.)

He expressed regret that Facebook had been betting on the Web and html coding “completely,” but says Facebook has made a complete turnabout.

“Now we are a mobile company and all the code is being written in mobile,” he said.

Zuck’s revelation regarding the importance of mobile is personal as well.

“You know the founder’s letter in the S-1 [filing],” he said to Arrington. “I wrote that on my phone. I do everything on my phone as a lot of people do.”

That’s impressive because the founder’s letter was loooooong.

The CEO, who seems a lot more comfortable on a stage than he used to, said the company expects ad revenue from mobile to surpass that from desktops in the future. Arrington asked Zuckerberg repeatedly whether that mobile revenue might also come from a “Facebook phone.” And Zuck repeatedly denied that was in the works.

Choice quotes from Mark Zuckerberg's Tech Crunch interview:

Zuckerberg on the stock.

"The performance of the stock has been disappointing, and we care about our shareholders," says Zuckerberg. "We're going to do the things that we think are going to build value in the long term."

Three points on mobile.

"It's easy to underestimate how fundamentally good mobile is for us," said Zuckerberg. "First, there are more users. Second is, per person who's using Facebook on mobile, there's more engagement and they're spending more time. Third, per person on mobile, we think we're going to make more money on them than on desktop."

Instagram!

"Instagram is great. They just crossed 100 million users."

Zuckerberg on search.

"We do on the order of a billion queries a day, and we're basically not even trying." Most of those are people trying to find people, but it's also people trying to find brands and apps.

The "legacy" search business: "You type in some keywords and it does some magic." It's changing into giving you answers. "Facebook is uniquely positioned to give you answers." He gives examples of finding sushi restaurants your friends have liked, or finding a job at companies where your friends work.

"We have a team working on search."

Zuckerberg on social games.

"Zynga's had a rough few quarters. They're basically a strong company. They've lost some share on our platform. Other companies like King.com and Kixeye have gained share. We have 200 million people playing games monthly. That's real."

"Are you still having fun?"

"Yeah. For me it's not really about fun. It's about mission. It goes through waves. There are times when everyone thinks what we're doing is awesome. There are times when everyone is pessimistic. I would rather be in the cycle where people underestimate us. I would rather be underestimated. It gives us freedom to go out and do interesting stuff."

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