Zuckerberg: 'Move fast and break things' isn't how Facebook operates anymore

CEO Mark Zuckerberg distances Facebook from its early, hacker-geared motto to a more mature one focused on stability.

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James Martin/CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- If you were to visit Facebook's sprawling Menlo Park, Calif., campus as recently as last year, you'd see its famous company motto -- "Move fast and break things" -- plastered on the walls. It was a celebration of the hacker mindset and a reminder that the kids -- the college dropouts -- were running the social show.

And at the time of Facebook's rise, Apple operated like a monolith and Google was a quick-growing Web giant, yet neither have nor will likely ever rival the world's largest social network at its primary game. Facebook, on the other hand, was a dorm room-born startup that could be nimble and take risks and think outside the box. The address of its headquarters now, 10 years after the company was founded: 1 Hacker Way.

Today, that changes, if mostly in philosophical terms. Soon posters painted with that hacker-celebrating mantra will be a source of nostalgia and nothing else for Facebook employees -- and most importantly for CEO Mark Zuckerberg who, onstage at the annual F8 conference here Wednesday, killed the saying as a relic of the social network's past.

The new motto: "Move fast with stable infrastructure." It "may not be quite as catchy as 'move fast and break things,'" Zuckerberg said with a smirk. "But it's how we operate now."

ZDNet: Facebook's Zuckerberg: Our approach to development, IT has matured

"As developers, moving quickly was so important, we would even tolerate a few bugs to do it," Zuckerberg added. But no longer, as the company has grown to such mammoth proportions that spending time fixing bugs was slowing it down faster than its risky attitude toward development.

The shift is subtle, but it shows a maturation happening at Facebook, which is arguably at the highest point it's ever been -- and with Zuckerberg, who approaches his 30th birthday. After taking the mic once more following a series of announcements from fellow executives, Zuckerberg spent the remainder of his time onstage getting personal and mentioning having met his wife a decade earlier.

"We want to help you guys touch people's lives," he said, wrapping up an uncharacteristic F8 that contained only one announcement that could be considered a product launch, that being its new mobile ad tool, Facebook Audience Network.

The motto change shows that Facebook and Zuckerberg are growing up and getting serious.

"I thought this was a really reflective moment for the company with its 10th anniversary upon it. There is a distinct air of maturity in the way the company is approaching its developer ecosystem," said Al Hilwa, a program director with software research firm IDC.

But the shift also has applications in how Facebook, now with 1.28 billion users and a business that is dominated by its strength in mobile, treats the developers that rely on it for growth and usability. Now that Parse -- which Facebook acquired last year -- has become a powerhouse developer tool powering a quarter of a million applications, and Facebook Connect and Login a dominant way an app grows its user base, the social network has a sprawling sea of partners large and small that it has to take care of.

"Because when you build something that you don't have to fix 10 times, you can move forward on top of what you've built. These are real changes that we're making so people can rely on us as a critical infrastructure for building all of their apps across every mobile platform," Zuckerberg told Wired's Steven Levy ahead of F8 when asked about the motto change.

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James Martin/CNET

Stable infrastructure to Facebook is integral to keeping its platform first and foremost on the minds of developers, and how the social network hopes to bridge the gap between mobile operating systems like Apple's iOS and Google's Android to make it easier for developers to ensure optimal performance.

Now that Facebook gets nearly 500 billion API calls a day to access its platform, Zuckerberg has shifted the focus from speed to efficiency and dependability. Along with the abandonment of its early motto, the company announced a two-year guarantee for core APIs -- meaning Facebook will no longer risk breaking other companies' apps when it updates its plug-ins -- alongside a promise to fix all bugs major and minor in 48 hours.

"Our goal with Facebook is to build the cross-platform platform," Zuckerberg explained at F8. For the next 10 years, Facebook wants "to build a culture of loving the people we serve that's as strong if not stronger than our culture of hacking," he added.

To do that -- and to become a company that transcends the mobile platform wars -- Zuckerberg realized that you can't move too fast, and some things aren't worth breaking.

Update at 11:44 a.m. PT:Added additional details and context.

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