Mark Zuckerberg rejected almost all the recent criticism of Facebook on Tuesday, claiming the fundamentals of the business remain strong and arguing the company will be fine in the long term.
Speaking publicly for the first time since Facebook’s May 18 IPO — after which the company’s value has plummeted by almost 50 percent — Zuckerberg admitted that the share price is a disappointment while not acknowledging much in the way of error.
He went straight at the question on everyone’s minds – mobile – saying that Facebook had already made a lot of progress.
“We’ve been in a quiet period for six months or so, since up to the time we started with the IPO,” Zuckerberg told the packed crowd at TechCrunch's Disrupt conference in San Francisco. “A lot has changed. Six months ago on mobile we hadn’t launched our new set of apps. Apple hadn’t announced iOS integration. Six months ago, we didn’t run a single ad on mobile.”
Zuckerberg placed as much blame on the quiet period as on his own company's efforts.
“It’s easy for a lot of folks without us being out there talking about what we’re doing to underestimate how fundamentally good mobile is for us.”
Moderator Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, pushed Zuckerberg on the issue, seeking to unearth an admission of error or some morsel of news.
The Facebook CEO continued to defend the company, arguing that this was but the latest in a long string of controversies.
"Facebook has not been an uncontroversial company in the past," he said. "It's not like this is the first up and down we've ever had."
He noted that whenever the press and analysts are too laudatory of his company, he tries to deflate his employees' egos. When the criticism ratchets up, Zuckerberg opts for an ego boost. For now, Zuckerberg said many were too critical, but he liked it that way.
"I would rather be underestimated," he said, the coda to a performance that has boosted the company's stock price by three perecent in after-hours trading.
So what did Facebook mess up, if anything? It bet the house on HTML 5, which the company is now correcting, he said. Though he is bullish on the future of HTML 5, Zuckerberg said the company should have made iOS and Android apps sooner.
And that was that, as Arrington segued into questions about Zynga, Instagram and the oft-rumored Facebook phone.
"It's always been the wrong strategy for us," Zuckerberg said, noting that his company's biggest hurdle is to develop the right ads for mobile. Though Facebook built a multibillion- dollar business on its desktop ads, mobile would require more integrated promotions.
Zuckerberg threw an elbow or two at Google, saying that Facebook generates a billion searches a day, “and we’re not even trying.”
When asked whether he still codes, he said he couldn’t because the rule at Facbeook is that if a piece of your code breaks, you have to fix it. And now he’s too busy with meetings.
"Does Mark Zuckerberg’s code break?" Arrington asked.
“Yes, everything I do breaks,” Zuckerberg said. “But we fix it quickly.”
The crowd roared.
Arrington kept the mood light, joking that Zuckerberg seemed to a past comment — "we don't build services to make money, we make money to build better services" — a bit too seriously.
Zuckerberg laughed, but stressed that he did not wake up every day to make money, or have fun for that matter.
"For me it's not about fun," he told Arrington. "It's about the mission."