3Q EARNINGS CALL: What Mark Zuckerberg Envisions For Facebook’s Future

CrystalBallEyeAt some point in just about every earnings call, company executives are asked about their visions for the future. Facebook Co-Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the next five years at the social network is based on “understanding the world,” and it includes advances in Graph Search, mobile applications such as Messenger, and artificial intelligence.

Understanding the world was one of the themes of Zuckerberg’s opening remarks during Facebook’s third-quarter earnings call Wednesday, as he said:

Next, let’s talk about understanding the world. What I mean by this is that everyday people post billions of pieces of content and connections into the graph. In doing this, they are helping to build the clearest models of everything there is to know in the world.

A big part of why this works is that people can share things with any audience they want. They don’t have to share publicly with everyone at the time. They can share with just their friends, so this means that the model of the world that people are building in our systems include things that people only want to share with just a few people. This has the potential to be really powerful, but right now, we have to do very little to utilize the knowledge that people have shared to benefit everyone in our community.

The service we invest in the most is News Feed, which gives you a great sense of what’s going on with your community today. The News Feed has proved itself incredibly useful for people and the most used app on people’s scoring by far, but this is just the start of what’s possible.

When we get to the point where everyone can easily ask any question to Facebook and get it answered by our community — that’s going to be very powerful.

Zuckerberg also discussed advances in Graph Search:

In the last quarter, there have been several important evolutions in our strategy of understanding the world. The first is around Graph Search. At the beginning of this year, we announced the first beta version of the service on desktop, and that indexed more than 1 trillion connections between people in this segment.

In the last quarter, we started testing what we call post search, which allows you to search all of the unstructured text and posts that people have ever made on Facebook — about 1.2 trillion more posts. The folks on the team who have worked on Web search engines in the past tell me that the Graph Search corpus is bigger than any other Web search index out there. It’s still early for Graph Search, because it’s still in beta, only in English, and we haven’t launched our mobile version yet, but it’s something I am really excited about.

On the topic of the new test version of Messenger for Android, announced earlier this week, and other mobile app plans, Zuckerberg said:

Messenger is part of how people send billions of private one-to-one and group messages every day and, with the latest release of the app yesterday, we are continuing to add features and make this a better experience. In the future, we expect to develop more services to help people share different content with different groups of people, and we will continue to build up Messenger as a better, distinct messaging experience.

Zuckerberg also spoke about the social network’s artificial-intelligence initiatives:

There is one more evolution in our strategy to understand the world that I want to mention. In September, we formed the Facebook AI Group to do world-class artificial-intelligence research using all of the knowledge that people have shared on Facebook. The goal here is to use new approaches in AI to help make sense of all of the content that people share so we can generate new insights about the world to answer people’s questions.

We started assembling a team of some of the best people in the field to work on these problems. We also announced the acquisition of Mobile Technologies, a speech-recognition and machine-translation company that will help expand our work in the field beyond just photo recognition to voice. Over time, I think it is going to be possible to build services that are much more natural to interact with, and that can help solve many more problems than any existing technologies today. I am excited that we are working on this problem, and I am looking forward to doing a lot more here.

Finally, in response to a question from Morgan Stanley Analyst Scott Devitt on what consumers will be doing on Facebook five years from now, Zuckerberg replied:

I know there are two pieces of this that we are thinking about related to the knowledge economy. The first is just helping our customers use information better to grow their businesses and create jobs.

So we are thinking about small businesses and making it so they can have better insights into who their customers are and better ability to reach them. Now developers have been able to use better analytics for being able to find new customers, as well. And those are a lot of the inspirations and the strategy behind the ad products that we are delivering.

On the side of the product experiences that we are creating for people who use Facebook, right now, I do think that the Facebook experience is very push-based, in that you go to Facebook and we are suggesting content to you through something like News Feed. Over time, I think, if we do a good job, we should be able to create more value through all of the knowledge that has been shared over time that we are not really surfacing on a day-to-day basis right now in terms of helping people answer a lot of different questions that they have around the world.

Readers: How different do you expect Facebook to be in five years?

Crystal ball image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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