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Facebook: We're Not Focused on Making Money

SAN FRANCISCO -- Facebook, the fast-growing consumer social networking site, doesn't need money, its CEO said at the Web 2.0 Summit.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said his company isn't worried about revenue for now. It's flush with Microsoft cash, and besides, it already does make money.

"Growth is our top priority," said Zuckerberg, in an onstage interview Thursday with the event's program chair, John Battelle. "We're not focused on optimizing for revenue. That doesn't mean we don't have a revenue strategy."

He pointed out that Facebook has two revenue channels, direct ad sales to brand advertisers and a self-service online ad platform that lets advertisers buy ads with a credit card. Facebook works with two-thirds of the top U.S. advertisers, and approximately 25 percent of the country's retailers created Facebook pages in 2008 to promote their offerings, according to a survey by Shop.org, a unit of the National Retail Federation. Facebook also has "thousands and thousands" of marketers buying self-service ads.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced a deal with Salesforce.com that will enable enterprises to build social networking features into Salesforce apps. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Battelle asked Zuckerberg about criticism that Facebook is a walled garden that doesn't allow users to move their profiles to other social networks, something that Google's OpenSocial initiative is designed to do. MySpace, Yahoo and AOL have signed on to the OpenSocial initiative, but Facebook has resisted.

Hoping to beat OpenSocial

Zuckerberg hinted that his company might hope to beat out OpenSocial to become the standard for online identity. He told the audience, "A lot of people say they like using our interface better. Whether or not ours will become the open standard, our first goal is to get people on Facebook and make them comfortable sharing information online."

Zuckerberg's conversation with Battelle lurched along, characterized by early silences and one-syllable answers. The audience at the San Francisco technology conference was much more polite than it was when former Businessweek reporter Sarah Lacey tried to get him to open up at South by Southwest Interactive Confab this past spring. Lacey was attacked viciously via Twitter and live bloggers for her interviewing approach.