Zuckerberg on 'Charlie Rose': Why Facebook rules

Facebook's chief, along with COO Sheryl Sandberg, deliver this essential message: Facebook, friends--good! Microsoft, Google, loners--bad!

Mark Zuckerberg's appearance on Charlie Rose's talk show, together with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, went on for a long time.

So I have confined the first part here to the short version of what was said. It continues later on with a little more, well, philosophical detail. And the full transcript is right at the bottom.

The Short Version

They talked about how no one company would dominate the Valley -- and presumably, the world. They talked about how Google, Yahoo and Microsoft were far more heinous when it came to taking liberties with your privacy than was Facebook -- which is so, so open and transparent, you see. Zuckerberg talked about how Steve Jobs had guided him into single-mindedness and, um, taste.

There was some doubt, though, about whether Jobs offered to buy Facebook. Sandberg seemed keen to interrupt Zuckerberg as he might have been about to offer than Jobs had. She insisted that Jobs would have known that Zuckerberg would never sell.

Sandberg insisted that the users are the most important part of Facebook -- something that might come as a surprise to, well, the users.

She said: "Their trust is sacred." She added: "Privacy is the most important thing we do."

You're in the short version currently, so please take as long as you like to laugh. Facebook has often given the impression that it's going to open the privacy spigot and let the users get used to being brave in their new world .

At heart, Facebook seems to believe that it's your fault if you don't get to use the privacy tools properly, though the company is happy to teach you to be a better, well, tools engineer.

Facebook doesn't seem desperate to go public any time soon. It really wasn't such a great catalyst in the Arab uprisings. And it would be lovely if every graduating engineer in America could get a work visa. Oh, and it doesn't seem like the company will create its own games, because they're too hard. (Please hold the tears.)

And Facebook is all about doing one thing well and being a partner to everyone. One more thing: both of the Bergs begin a lot of sentences with the word "so."

That's about it for the short version. So if you have better things to do, I'll see you a little later.

The Longer Version. (The Philosophy Part)

If you're still here, let's consider the Bergs' excellent and erudite class in social philosophy.

The Facebook world vision is clearly most important, because Facebook intends to be the place where everything happens, everything is said, everything is taught and everything is thought.

At the level of pure human philosophy, then, what is the point of Facebook?

The point of Facebook, as far as Zuckerberg sees it, is based on an important qualitative judgment: "Every single service that you use is now going to be better with your friends because they can tap into your friends, right."

I'm not entirely sure what that means. But I'm guessing that it's something to do with the quaint, faddy notion that everything is always better when your friends are involved than when they're not.

I deduce this from Zuckerberg's next statement when talking about products such as Spotify : "All of these different products are better when you're doing them with your friends. I mean think about it, do you want to go to the movies by yourself or do you want to go with your friends, right? You want to go with your friends."

And yet sometimes, the last thing you want in the evening is your friends to knock on your door, just when you wanted to be left alone. They barge in and want to know what music you're listening to, what TV show you're watching. Friends can be entirely irritating and unwelcome.

Sometimes, it's heartily annoying when your friends offer their opinions on your choice of restaurant, lover, or lover that you met in a restaurant.

CC Ruby Goes/Flickr

Yet Zuckerberg seems enamored of the notion -- curiously, some might say, for a nerd-- that humans are social or they're not really humans at all.

You see, went the argument offered by Sandberg, it is the difference between "the wisdom of crowds" and "the wisdom of friends."

So Google -- no, wait, the whole Web -- is the wisdom of the crowd, whereas Facebook is the 800 million strong wisdom of friends: intimate, emotional and very personal in a groupie kind of way?

Those who live in Europe would describe people who just have to talk about themselves as "American." So the philosophies expounded here might be seen as, ironically, very American individualistic, rather than groupie.

"I think that people just have this core desire to express who they are," explained Zuckerberg.

Well, yes, But to whom? Some would say that many people don't really want the whole world to know them. They want to be able to choose who knows them and how. (This might just be one reason why Facebook's entry into China is, according to Sandberg, "Not on the immediate horizon.")

Facebook, as far as Zuckerberg has it, allows you to be more essentially human, by making it easy to stay in touch with those you care about-- and those you're interested in. (Whom you might not know at all.)

However, Zuckerberg then slides this excellent notion into the idea that all products will be more enjoyable because you share them with these other people.

It's a fascinating notion. One that just happens to fit in with Sandberg's explanation that marketers have always known that word of mouth is more powerful than just mass messaging. So now they're truly excited that they'll be able to infiltrate your mouth-words with their messages.

But are they wiling to pay for that privilege? Or, as the Wall Street Journal revealed last week, perhaps they feel they might not need to. Perhaps they feel they will charm friends into buying via Facebook without having to buy too many of Facebook's ad spaces.

The supposed influence of Steve Jobs on Zuckerberg is also interesting. Yes, Jobs said that he admired Zuckerberg for not selling his company. But philosophically, they are complete opposites. While Jobs was obsessed with not shipping a product until it was perfect, Zuckerberg told Rose of signs at Facebook that say: "Done is better than perfect."

The Irony

Despite this corporate drive to get people to share more, post more, live more on Facebook, the Bergs are almost Borgs when it comes to friendship.

Sandberg explained that her best friends are still from high school, that Zuckerberg still hangs out with the same people and goes to the same restaurants.

"Don't change your social circles," was her final advice. So you really need Facebook to keep up with them all?

The Quotes

Zuckerberg: "If you look at companies, whether it's Google or Yahoo or Microsoft, right, that have search engines and ad networks, they also have a huge amount of information about you. It's just that they're collecting that about you behind your back, really."

Zuckerberg: "And it's like you're going..you're going around the web, and they have cookies, and they're collecting this huge amount of information about who you are. But you never know that."

Zuckerberg: "I think that these companies with those big ad networks are basically getting away with collecting huge amounts of information, likely way more information than people are sharing on Facebook about themselves. In reality, you have control over every single thing that you've shared on Facebook."

Sandberg: "I think it is the case that people talk about Facebook and privacy a lot, and I think it will continue to be the case, but it's because we lead in this area, meaning that we are the most privacy-focused place for anyone to share anything."

(Well, no," Rose countered. "it's because you have more information about everybody than anybody else.")

Mark Zuckerberg & Sheryl Sandberg on "Charlie Rose"

 

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