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Mark Zuckerberg says he hasn't fully worked out how Facebook will monetize its new strategy, though he is optimistic.
"The basic way that we've approached things is first to focus on building the consumer service that people really want," Zuckerberg told Wired editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson. "Then focus on making it so people can organically interact with businesses, and then focus on paid ways that businesses can grow and get more distribution. So we're still in the phase on this private messaging platform, of phase one, where we're really focused on nailing the consumer experience."
According to Zuckerberg, the future of social networking will be more about sharing private and ephemeral messages with a closer group of friends, rather than broadcasting information that could live on a platform for a long period of time to a wider range of people. The strategy lines up with plans Facebook confirmed in January to integrate messaging across three of its properties: Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. Facebook aims to build end-to-end encryption into all of these services, which would mean even Facebook would not be able to read messages sent between users.
In the Wired interview, Zuckerberg acknowledged that giving up access to user information will present a challenge when it comes to monetizing Facebook, but he said he is not too concerned since the company does not currently use messages sent through its services to target ads. Facebook makes money by allowing advertisers to target users with specific demographic traits and interests based on things they like on the platform and information they share about themselves like age and gender.
"Keeping metadata around for less time will have some impact, although I'm optimistic that we'll build systems that can basically deliver most of the value with a fraction of the amount of data," he told Wired. "But there's a lot more to learn there, which we need to figure out over the coming years as we build this out."
Facebook has a few monetization options that it has hinted at over the past year. Zuckerberg has signaled a stronger focus on Stories, the Snapchat-like feature that lets users post photos and videos that can disappear after 24 hours.
On a call with analysts after Facebook's third-quarter 2018 earnings report, Zuckerberg said he believes Stories "is the future." While Facebook has not clearly laid out a monetization plan for that feature either, he said he believes Stories will eventually "be bigger" than the platform's News Feed.
A third way Facebook could make money as it focuses on private messaging is through shopping, which Zuckerberg has indicated is a promising revenue stream for the business. On his Q4 2018 earnings call, Zuckerberg said the company is seeing more commerce activity across its platforms.
"People are already doing a lot of commerce activity and are really interested in following brands, and I think making sure that that works and does well is a big deal," Zuckerberg told analysts on the call. "But I think there's also a very big opportunity in basically enabling the transactions."
Read the full interview at Wired.