As Facebook Matures, It Looks to Grow Mobile Reach

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 4, 2014 | Go to article overview

As Facebook Matures, It Looks to Grow Mobile Reach


Byline: Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mark Zuckerberg, like Facebook, is maturing. The soon-to-be 30-year-old CEO of the decade-old social networking company grew reflective as he stood before hundreds of app developers to announce a host of mobile features designed to put "people first."

"We used to have this famous mantra, 'move fast and break things,'" Zuckerberg said at Facebook's f8 developer conference in San Francisco.

But moving quickly was sometimes so important that Facebook's engineers would tolerate a few bugs, or push out products that were not always fully baked. Fixing the bugs, Zuckerberg said, "was slowing us down." Backpedaling on features that didn't work -- or that users didn't like -- slowed things, too, though Zuckerberg did not mention that.

Facebook's new mantra may not be as sexy. Zuckerberg pointed to a new sign that read "Move fast with stable infra," as in infrastructure, and the audience laughed. Stability, it turns out, is the new maxim, and the era of breaking things is over.

In a rare bit of onstage rumination reflecting on the past decade, Zuckerberg said he and other Facebook employees realized they had created a culture of quick-witted, fast-moving engineers who took pride in being "hackers" who consistently put the company's best interests ahead of what users wanted.

Now, Zuckerberg says, the goal is "to build a culture of loving the people we serve that is as strong if not stronger than our culture of hacking at Facebook. I hope you can see the seeds of some of this today in what we are talking about."

The last time Facebook held a conference for app developers was in 2011. That was before the company attracted 1.28 billion users, before it went public, before it began showing mobile advertisements and before it paid eye-popping amounts of money to acquire popular apps like Instagram and WhatsApp.

In the tech world, three years can be a lifetime. Facebook's focus is now squarely on the mobile space, not just its own applications but those built by outside developers.

"As you get older you do gain perspective, and Facebook has," said David Kirkpatrick, author of "The Facebook Effect," a chronicle of the company's early years.

"It's astonishing that a 10-year-old company should be in a position to have as much influence in so many things in society as they do," he said. "And I think they are starting to take a much more serious approach to the opportunity and responsibility that goes along with their scale."

As part of its mobile, people-first focus, Facebook says it will let users log in to apps anonymously, without sharing their identities and personal information with mobile applications they don't trust.

Facebook's users can already use a "log in with Facebook" button to sign up for apps that let them listen to music, play games, read the news and monitor fitness activities. But using the button allows apps to access information related to the Facebook user's identity.

With the anonymous login, Facebook will have information about users but the apps won't. Zuckerberg said the feature will let more people to try out new apps that they may not trust yet with their personal information. App developers have the option of including the anonymous login as a feature, but they won't have to.

The company is also launching more granular controls that let people determine the types of information they share with apps when they want to use their Facebook identity to log in. Previously, apps could decide what information they wanted to access on people's Facebook pages -- such as people's birthday, friends list or email address. …

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