Facebook CEO Looks to 2037
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Web 2.0 startups mixed with more established computer companies at the inaugural TechCrunch 40 conference here. One of the highlights was an early evening "fireside chat" keynote by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg Monday, who made it clear he thinks the social-networking platform will be around a long time.
While the company's strategy of opening up its platform to developers earlier this year has been wildly successful, he said "we're the first to admit we have a lot of work to do to be as open as we want it to be .... it might take 30 years."
As the audience considered what Facebook might look like in 2037, Zuckerberg also announced some very concrete plans to improve the service near term.
Some of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company's key investors have started a $10 million Facebook Development fund. He said any developer can send a Facebook application and business plan to the FD fund at email@example.com to be eligible for grant money ranging from $25,000 to $250,000 if the FD board likes it.
Zuckerberg said the only strings attached to the award is that the FD fund has first right of refusal to the next round of funding, should there be one.
In response to criticism by TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington that Facebook doesn't provide a robust e-mail function, Zuckerberg said they're always looking to improve the service, but thinks the system has distinct advantages. "By not being like e-mail we prevent a lot of spam," he said. "Also, the messages you get are from individuals, not e-mail lists. As we expand, we're definitely thinking about how this should evolve."
Though Facebook's rapid growth has many comparing it to giants like Google and Microsoft, Zuckerberg pointed out it's really still a small company that only recently passed 300 employees.
As for the rest of TechCrunch 40, the sold-out conference was an actual crunch for scores of attendees who couldn't find seats for the main presentations. There were also technical difficulties that affected a few of the on-stage demos, mostly related to Wi-Fi and other connectivity issues.
But several innovative products made their debuts at the event, which ends Tuesday. The overall theme by the parade of presenters was that they are attacking some problem or creating a new service for consumers and users to help them get more from the Internet and mobile devices connected to the Web.
"For the first time we've combined all the elements of social life they can drive with one finger and thumb," said Doug Richard, co-founder and CEO of Trutap. Currently in private beta, TruTap is designed to help users more easily chat, text, blog or IM from a mobile device.
Another company, Yap, said it's helping to speech-enable the mobile Web, providing both a handy utility and perhaps even saving lives. "Did you know that 66 percent of teens text while driving?" said company CEO Igor Jablokov. "Text messaging while using your voice is much safer."
Yahoo previewed Yahoo For Teachers, a Web service still in development. The idea, which was developed with the help of 65 teachers, is to help educators across the country better develop and share lesson plans. In a demo, the company showed tools designed to help educators easily cut and paste and organize different elements of a lesson plan via the Web.
"We have a stake in this; it's social networking for social good," said Scott Moore, Yahoo's vice president of content operations.
Cake Financial might have been of the most personal interest to the well-heeled audience of investors. The free online service lets you compare your portfolio's performance to what your friends or other members of the Cake family are doing.
You can sign on using an alias and the site reveals your investments and performance, which can be compared to the top performers in the network or other measures like the S&P 500.
"This is the only database on the planet that compares historical to real-time returns," said Steve Carpenter, Cake Financial's founder and CEO. The service also lets you see which members are holding specific stocks and when they were purchased. Carpenter said the system holds up to 10 years of historical data for each member and works with leading online brokerage firms.