Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared on American 60 Minutes tonight in an appearance Michael wrote about January 11 with the title “Facebook – Why Not Let Sleeping Dogs Lie?” Michael’s call was right, because what Mark Zuckerberg said tonight demonstrates why silence is sometimes the best policy.
The story started with what looked to be a fluff piece, until it got a little bit more challenging. One example was the question as to whether he had surpassed Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin; instead of simply denying it he responded with “is that a question?” Well it clearly was a question and the right response would have been to simply say that no, he hadn’t (or something along those lines), but I can’t image what it would be like to be put on the spot like that by 60 Minutes, wrong response but excusable.
The ripping the scab off the wound moment of the night came with Beacon, and if I’d been sitting on a chair I would have fallen off it, and not due to jet lag. Asked about Beacon and as to whether users who signed up to connect with friends now felt that they were “snooped upon” Zuckerberg responded that “Beacon makes Facebook less commercial.” WTF? You can draw your own conclusions on that. He also gave an example of Beacon selling scarfs “proactively,” and said that Beacon was a good thing because Facebook needed to feed it’s 400 employees, after earlier ducking a question about Facebook’s business model (in particular a lack of revenue.)
Zuckerberg did note though that he lived in a one bedroom apartment and slept on the floor (well, a mattress on the floor), if he is truly wealthy he’s not letting it go to his head and that’s a positive thing.
On one hand his relative youth provides some justification for his reactions under the media spotlight, and yet as Kara Swisher noted toward the end of the piece, most people now regard Zuckerberg as having become “a suit.” He’s very good a trotting out the company line with a canned response, but his tendency to rely on these sorts of responses leaves him caught short when he doesn’t have a prepared response for harder questions. My only observation is that perhaps he’d be better off relaxing a little more and being more open and honest; Facebook must reach a tipping point this year in growth and people will feel a lot better about supporting him if he was little less robotic, and more importantly more open.
Update: you can see the full interview here.