Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg just closed the second day of Web 2.0 Summit in an onstage chat that rehashed topics like the company’s newly-launched unified messaging system, privacy and the future of the Facebook platform.
The most interesting portion of the talk came in the second half, when conversation turned to the next-generation of developers and how they would interact with the Facebook platform.
“Over the next five years, most industries will get rethought around social and people,” said Zuckerberg.
When he created Facebook for universities, all the most popular contemporary services existed separately from each other and had no common social ground. For music, you used Kazaa; for search, you used Google, etc.
“Facebook immediately became the most engaging product on the Web with the most usage per user from the beginning,” argues Zuckerberg, because it was social. Today, more than 50% of people on Facebook use it daily and that figure is growing because of mobile.
In a way, this is Zuckerberg’s pitch for entrepreneurs to develop on the Facebook platform: you’re going to need to be social. His best argument for this is a little San Francisco startup called Zynga, whose market cap is now greater than that of Electronic Arts (EA), one of the biggest video game companies for over two decades.
Coincidentally, venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who had been on stage just minutes before, claimed that Zynga is the only successful developer to build on the Facebook platform. To Zynga, Zuckerberg added Playdom, Playfish and Crowdstar, but the point remained that only the gaming developers were seeing immense success on the site. Zuckerberg’s responded that it has been true on most platforms (iPhone, original PC) that gaming has been the first big vertical to tip.
So what areas could entrepreneurs develop towards without worrying that Facebook would just launch its own version of the application?
“Content,” says Zuckerberg. Anything related to content creation--music, movies, TV, news--Facebook has no interest in. “Our default is build an open platform. Our best strategy is to enable the next set of entrepreneurs to build all the next businesses and not do that themselves. I don’t even know if we can.”
Games is the first step. Will the next big music application be one that integrates directly with the social graph? Well, Apple is trying to sort that out with iTunes Ping. As for movies, TV and news, the story seems the same: big-time companies are already working on these products. All that’s missing is the social aspect. It will be interesting to see what happens to development on the Facebook platform in the coming years.