RealTime IT News

Internet Execs Talk Up Web 2.0 Deals, Platforms

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was a who's who in the Internet industry as the Web 2.0 Summit kicked off here Wednesday. An afternoon of high-level presentations culminated with an onstage early-evening Q&A with News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch and Chris DeWolfe, co-founder of News Corp. property MySpace.

Murdoch amused the packed hall of Internet execs, developers and entrepreneurs with a few pointed comments and observations. For example he called Facebook "pretty cool" but said it's more of a utility than MySpace, which he deemed more plugged in to media and culture. MySpace "is not just about looking up friends," he said.

Rupert Murdoch
Murdoch never thought MySpace 'would do this well.'
Source: James Duncan Davidson

Asked if he had his eye on other media or Web properties, Murdoch said "everything is too expensive."

The CEO said he learned the hard way going from publishing newspapers to more expensive magazines and then to Hollywood, that each industry has its own unique culture. "The Internet culture is totally different than anything else," he said. And Silicon Valley is "the most exciting place on Earth in many ways," because the pace of technology innovation is so fast and "this is the center of it."

Many thought Murdoch overpaid for MySpace when he bought it in 2005 for $580 million, but it's now worth many times that price. "We never imagined it would do this well," he said. Google struck a three-year $900 million advertising deal with News Corp. last year to provide search and advertising through MySpace.com, IGN and other Fox Interactive Media Web sites owned by the media giant.

There were rumors MySpace would use the event to formally announce plans to open up the social network to developers to a la Facebook. There was no formal detailed announcement, however, and DeWolfe said little beyond confirming plans to open the site to developers in coming months. He added that the site would offer developers a "sandbox" area to test applications.

He went into more detail on advertising initiatives, saying that MySpace is testing a new way for advertisers to "hyper-target" MySpace users based on their profiles. MySpace has identified ten interest areas, which it's about to expand to 100, and eventually 1,000, that advertisers will be able to pick from. He mentioned "horror movies" and "action sports" as examples of these new groupings.

Facebook founder plays it safe

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg made mostly guarded comments in an onstage interview with Web 2.0 Summit's program chair John Battelle. Zuckerberg mostly spoke about the social network's phenomenal growth and challenges going forward. He reiterated comments made at another industry confab in September that Facebook is at an early stage of its development and could take as long as 30 years to reach its full potential.

Mark Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg remains tight-lipped on Facebook's future.
Source: James Duncan Davidson

"It might take tens of years to be a really mature platform, but the really quick start we've had has been amazing," he said. Zuckerberg also said there already more than 100,000 people doing Facebook development and the site has 45 million users.

Zuckerberg avoided giving further hints on where Facebook might head in the realm of development, saying only in response to a question, "There might be something in ads. In the next few months we'll have a lot more on that."

He did not take the bait offered by Battelle as to whether Facebook is planning an ad network that would extend beyond Facebook like Google's. Facebook currently has a deal with Microsoft to run its ad network. "The kind of stuff we like to solve are deeply technical problems, like news feeds which computes what is most interesting to share with friends. That's a really technical, interesting problem."

Zuckerberg remained coy when asked about rumors Microsoft is trying to buy five percent of the company in a deal that would value Facebook at between $10 and $15 billion. Asked how its funding activities were going, Zuckerberg said: "It's going well, we're almost wrapped up."