Despite some recent controversy, Facebook is a $450 billion social media behemoth with over 1.4 billion daily users. But what if Facebook never caught on? What would CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg have done with his life if another social network, say MySpace, ruled the online world?
"I would build whatever the next thing is," Zuckerberg says.
During an interview for a new episode of Freakonomics Radio's "Secret Life of CEOs" podcast, series host Stephen Dubner asks the Facebook CEO: "If this hadn't worked out, if MySpace had become Facebook, what do you think you'd be doing?"
Initially, Zuckerberg, who Dubner interviewed in 2017, is adamant that he would not want to stray from the technology industry and social media.
"I've always really cared about the idea of connecting people and bringing people together…." Zuckerberg says on the podcast.
"If you got started 13 years ago in a dorm, the right thing to do is to build a website for social networking. Ten years ago, or seven years ago, maybe the right thing to do is build a mobile app for social networking."
Though Dubner politely prodded Zuckerberg for more, saying "you really didn't answer my question," the tech titan was adamant. He says that if Facebook had never emerged from his dorm room at Harvard University to come a ubiquitous social networking platform, he would have just moved on to look for a new way to use technology to connect people online, which is part of Facebook's mission statement.
"I mean, my answer is that I would build whatever the next thing is," Zuckerberg says. "I still think you can care about the mission, but Facebook is not a one product company at this point. And, you know, there are new social network companies that get started all the time."
There are a lot of different ways to find the "next thing" in terms of tech and social networking, says Zuckerberg.
"Our path as Facebook, I think, is good proof that the line is not clear," he says. "I started it as a website for Harvard students to build a community there. There was no news feed, none of the stuff that you think of as the most important parts of what Facebook are today. So you start with something; you find a niche; and then you can grow it to serve more people in that way."
"So, there was no impulse to become a dentist, for instance?" Dubner asks Zuckerberg, whose father, Edward, is a dentist.
"No, that stuff makes me queasy. So I never had the whole doctor thing. And Priscilla's got that covered for the family," Zuckerberg responds, referring to his wife, Priscilla Chan, a licensed pediatrician.
Zuckerberg's interview with Freakonomics Radio took place before Facebook's most recent scandal. Both Zuckerberg and Facebook are currently under fire from a wide range of critics, from regulators to rival tech executives like Tim Cook and Elon Musk, amid the recent Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal in which millions of Facebook users' personal data was used without their permission during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The social networking giant has also faced criticism over the spread of misinformation on Facebook and the fact that Russian-linked accounts used Facebook to meddle with the U.S. election.
Still, Zuckerberg is adamant in the interview that "technology is a huge lever for improving people's lives." Zuckerberg tells Dubner: "There are always going to be new ways that people want to share and connect and feel supported, and there are always things to build."
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