Facebook Developer's Conference 2011

Facebook f8 Conference: A Q&A with Author David Kirkpatrick

Mary Catherine Wellons|CNBC Producer
David Kirkpatrick

What To Expect At f8: Q&A with David Kirkpatrick

Ahead of f8, we chatted with The Facebook Effectauthor David Kirkpatrick about his expectations for Facebook's fourth developer conference. It's been just over a year since  Kirkpatrick's book was published, and in that time Facebook has gone from 350 million users to more than 750 million. Given his unique perspective on the innerworkings of the company, we asked Kirkpatrick to share his thoughts on what we should be listening for on Sept. 22.

What can we expect from this year’s f8?

“I think Facebook has three primary goals that will be exemplified in the announcements they make on Thursday.

  1. They want to increase their revenues through something they call Facebook Credits. They want to give you more stuff you can buy inside the Facebook ecosystem. So, obviously, music is part of that, and video is probably going to be part of that as well.
  2. They also want to increase usage of Facebook, so that if they can make you feel that Facebook is more central to your life because you're listening to more music and listening to more video inside Facebook in addition to all the other things you do there, that’s a plus as well.
  3. They also really want to reinforce Facebook's use as a mobile device. One of the things that I really also suspect is going to come out of Thursday's announcement is some significant new structural changes in the way Facebook works on mobile….Facebook is effectively moving off the desktop, off the laptop, off everything except for on mobile devices, which includes phones and tablets.”  

Why is Facebook (reportedly) launching a music platform at f8?

“Facebook wants to deepen its integration with music because the community of people that use Facebook cares very deeply about music. Facebook still skews somewhat young even though its demographics have spread across the map…People spend a lot of time listening to music. Music is intrinsically something that could be made better if it were made more social. So, if you think that Facebook's fundamental goal as a business to bring more social features to literally everything we do, then bringing music into that equation makes perfect sense.”

Expectations for f8

Does Facebook need to IPO in 2012?

“Facebook doesn't have to IPO from Mark Zuckerberg's point of view, but the reality is when a company has raised this much capital, which is probably in the range of $4 billion dollars altogether that they've raised through various forms of investment, they have an obligation to their investors to give them some form of more transparent liquidity. Even though some stock is now being traded on these private markets, Facebook does have to go public. It's just a reality of the way this industry is structured.”

How has Facebook changed the competitive landscape? 

“The way Facebook wants other companies in general to view it as an opportunity rather than a threat. There are some exceptions to that and Google would probably be one. Google sees Facebook as an unqualified threat and competitor. Apple is a little more complicated. If Facebook didn't work on the iPhone, Apple would not have a good business on the iPhone. Facebook is the most popular app on the iPhone. Apple needs Facebook, Facebook needs Apple. Meanwhile, they have trouble cooperating. Apple is not a very social company. It's never really understood social very well. Meanwhile, Facebook is possibly this week at this event going to announce an HTML 5 version of its product so it could actually bypass the Apple app store. There's a lot of complexities in that particular relationship because Apple is so important and Facebook is so important.”

What about Google+?

F8 Facebook Developers Conference 2011

“Google is clearly trying to compete with Facebook head-on with Google+. It's somewhat of a disappointment. It's still pretty important, but it's not going to dislodge Facebook. From the standpoint of almost every other company though, I think Facebook is a potential partner not a competitor.”

Privacy was a big concern at f8 last year. Is privacy still a chief concern for Facebook?

“Privacy concerns have diminished recently, but there's no question that they will never go away for Facebook because this company is maintaining personal identity information about 800 million people. We've never had a company have so much data about us. As Facebook continues to grow, as it continues to become more global, it absolutely will continue to face a lot of pressure on the privacy front. Facebook has made some smart changes in its privacy software so it's easier to tell how it's information is seen by others. It's a little easier to control who sees what, but they still have far more to go in that area, and I guarantee they'll get lots of pressure from regulators and governments going forward to ensure that they take seriously their responsibility for this enormous amount of personal data that's under their control.”

What do you make of reports Facebook is planning a redesign at f8?

“Let me say this, because Facebook is a technology company that views itself as constantly evolving. Iteration and constant innovation is the world in which it lives. So, its interface, design, and software will always be changing. The reason is that Zuckerberg and his team strongly believe if they slow down in their pace of change somebody else will come up their tail pipe and take their business away. They have no choice. They have to constantly be changing their design, their software, their interface, their platform strategy, and if they don't, they're dead.”

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