IN HIS FIRST INTERVIEW ABOUT "BEACON," FACEBOOK'S FOUNDER SAYS THE CONTROVERSIAL AD MODEL NEEDS WORK BUT WILL BE "A GOOD THING" EVENTUALLY -- "60 MINUTES"
Mark Zuckerberg Also Says It's Highly Unlikely Facebook Will Go Public in 2008
The controversial advertising device many accused of invading the privacy of Facebook users will eventually be a good tool, says Facebook founder and chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg. In his first interview since controversy broke out over the ad device, called Beacon, Zuckerberg tells Lesley Stahl that it is just a matter of time before he gets the idea right for Facebook. Zuckerberg's interview will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday Jan. 13 (7:00-8:00PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Beacon alerts users of Facebook, the hot Internet social networking site, when their friends buy online merchandise from companies Facebook has a marketing relationship with, acting as a word-of-mouth ad tool. The device drew a lot of criticism at launch due to privacy concerns and users' inability to easily deactivate it. Zuckerberg eventually apologized for Beacon, admitting in a Facebook blog entry that the company "made a lot of mistakes building this feature." But Facebook did not cancel Beacon and is committed to making it work. In his interview with Stahl, the 23-year-old entrepreneur says, "It might take some work for us to get this exactly right. This is something we think is going to be a really good thing." Click here for an excerpt of Stahl's report.
Some worry that the ads Zuckerberg is experimenting with will make his site overly commercial. "I actually think [our ads] make it less commercial. What would you rather see? A banner ad from Bloomingdale's or that one of your friends bought a scarf?" asks Zuckerberg. "I mean, there have to be ads either way because we have to make money....We have 400 employees. We have to support all that and make a profit," he tells Stahl.
One way he's not likely to make money in the coming year, he says, is through an initial public offering. He's reportedly turned down a $1 billion offer from Yahoo! in 2006. He did sell a 1.6-percent stake to Microsoft for $240 million last year, but Zuckerberg is in no rush to go public; he wants build his company first. "I think...what I can announce is that it is highly unlikely that we will go public in 2008 and when going public makes sense to do, we'll do that."
Facebook is one of the fastest growing sites online, with 60 million current users. Many believe it may be the biggest Internet property since Google. But the kid who started Facebook as a college student at Harvard before he dropped out to focus on the business is still living like a kid. He may be worth $3 billion based on the Microsoft deal, but his clothes belie his wealth - he showed up for the interview in a sweatshirt and sandals. "I'm not buying really expensive clothes," he tells Stahl. "I have a little, like, one-bedroom apartment with a mattress on the floor. That's where I live."