Peter Kafka

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Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg Leans In at D11

IMGS4452-LThe good news for Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard side project now has more than a billion users, and is on track to do more than $6 billion in revenue this year.

The bad news for Facebook: It’s not Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard side project anymore. And now it’s beholden to all those users — and the advertisers that fund the operation, and the investors who are waiting for the company to surpass its IPO price from a year ago.

The last time Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg came to the D conference, in 2008, she showed up with Zuckerberg. This morning she’s going solo, and she’s going to have a lot to discuss — including a new book you may have heard about.

8:28 am: Greetings, Internet!
Just cooling our collective heels while we wait for Mary Meeker to finish up her excellent slide presentation at D11.

You can follow along here (And you should! Just keep this tab open.)

Relevant for this discussion: China now has more iOS + Android users than the U.S.

Mary is wrapping up with some takeaways. For instance — hope you are brushing up on your Cantonese.

Mary also makes the first of the day’s “Lean In” jokes.

Mary is taking extra time to push immigration reform (or, at least, immigration reform for high-tech workers that Valley companies would like to hire).

Mary’s off!

8:38 am: Walt and Kara are on — actually, Mary is still on, with them.

Walt asks Mary if Microsoft is making a mistake by continuing to make PCs. Mary hems a bit, but says, basically, yes.

Kara wants to know what the iPhone of wearables will be. Mary hems a bit here, too. Says she likes the idea of embeddable earrings.

8:41 am: Okay. Now Mary is off.

8:41 am: And Sheryl is on.

Walt: Why does “Lean In” matter to the people in this room?

Sheryl: I wrote the book because men still run the world. “And I’m not sure how that’s going.”

(Sheryl is rattling off statistics that you have most certainly heard if you’ve heard her speak at all in the last six months.)

Sheryl has an anecdote about an old rich white guy who felt that he was going to be displaced by others.

“Five years ago in the workplace, I would have never said the word “woman.”

Walt: Okay. But what about tech?

Sheryl: Same problem in every industry.

Walt: Yeah, but you work in tech.

Sheryl: If we could get more women in computer science, it would solve, or come close to solving, the hiring problem Mary was just talking about.

Kara: Okay. What do you do after you lean in? Or more precisely, what do you do now that you’ve published the book?

Sheryl: Keep talking about it, watch the language we use.

Be aware of “gendered expectations.”

Walt asks Sheryl for a new anecdote or two.

Sheryl tells a story about a manager in NYC who says he can’t give a performance review to a woman without a ton of legal work.

Walt: Are the HR people nuts?

Sheryl: No. But the system is not helping. The big problem is that no one talks about any of this stuff.

We need to have frank discussions, for instance, about pregnancy, maternity leaves, etc.

8:52 am: On to Facebook talk. Kara wants to know how Mark Zuckerberg deals with Sheryl’s celebrity. How has your relationship with Mark developed?

Sheryl: This is a fun place to talk about that. Our first public interview was here, five years ago. But even then we were pretty aligned.

Kara: More details, please.

Sheryl: We sit next to each other, we Facebook message each other a lot. We give each other feedback every Friday.

Remember that when I took the job, I was going to work for a 23-year-old with a $15 billion valuation.

8:54 am: Mark does product and engineering design. That’s what he loves to do. I help run the company — sales, deals, marketing, help build the business side of the business.

8:54 am: Walt: What’s up with Facebook Home? Why did you do it, and why isn’t it taking off?

Sheryl: It’s v.1 of making the phone revolve around people. “It’s an incredibly powerful device, and an incredibly social device,” but right now it’s designed around tasks and apps.

Kara: Do you consider Home to be a success?

Sheryl: It’s v.1.

Kara: Where will you get leverage as you develop this?

Sheryl: Facebook is a very powerful layer, and lots of apps are already integrated with us. (Not really an answer.)

Walt: I reviewed this and said there wasn’t a lot of reason to have it unless you were really in “Facebook World.” Why isn’t this really a hot commodity?

Sheryl: You love it or you don’t. It’s bi-modal. The reviews are five stars or one star. But even the people who don’t like it like the core features we launched, like Chat Heads. “I think it will be a long road, but I really think we’re on a path to making phones more social.”

Kara: Let’s talk about mobile generally. You guys were late to mobile, and it was an issue with your IPO. Have you caught up?

Sheryl: We are pleased with momentum. Mobile is, in lots of ways, better for us than desktop. Like with ads — we have a bigger competitive advantage with mobile than desktop.

“We have a Super Bowl every day in the U.S.” when you combine desktop and mobile audiences. Samsung had huge success launching with us. We can target people who want to buy a car. We can find heavy soda drinkers.

Last quarter, 30 percent of our revenue was mobile.

9:01 am: Walt: What do you think about wearables?

Sheryl: I tried Google Glass last week. It took a while to get used to, but then I kind of liked it.

Walt: Are you working on wearables?

Sheryl: We’re not a device maker, but we’re developing for Glass.

Kara: Are there are any devices you would make?

Sheryl: Never say never, but we’re not a device company.

Walt: What about “taking over” devices with your software?

Sheryl: Potentially.

Kara: Why is Wall Street still worried about you?

Sheryl: Never speculate on the speculators. Anyway, we’re stronger now than we were at IPO. Bigger, more geographies, engagement has increased.

Kara: What do you worry about?

Sheryl: “I worry about everything. Mark and I are big worriers.”

But, Mark and I are going to stay focused. “Things built around people.”

9:06 am: Walt: But seriously, aren’t some people dropping off Facebook, like teens?

Sheryl: “We’re the leaders in a growing market.” It is “absolutely true” that teens are using other services as well now. “They’re using Tumblr more. They’re using Twitter more,” but at the same time, “they continue to be active and engaged Facebook users.” Look at the the Pew report — FB usage still up with teens. “We don’t think it’s a zero-sum game.”

Average person in the U.S. watches 34 hours of TV a week. There is room for people to do different things.

Kara: What do you think about the Instagram deal a year later?

Sheryl: Pretty happy, just like we were all along.

Kara: What about Waze, which we just wrote about?

Sheryl: Won’t talk about M&A. Will talk about maps, though. “We have to prioritize ruthlessly.” It would be great if we could build an awesome map. But we’re not going to do that.

Or, for instance, an ad network. It’s not a bad idea but it’s not a priority for us.

“It’s a non-goal,” not because it’s a bad idea, but because we’re doing other stuff.

Real priority? Mobilemobilemobilemobile.

Q&A:

9:10 am: Question from Ali Partovi: How come Wall Street doesn’t love you like we love you in Silicon Valley?

Sheryl: I learned at Treasury: “Never predict.” Anyway, we’re going to build a great company.

Q: I’m a professional woman. I feel a disconnect between your language and the ads I get on my Facebook page, where I get lots of ads for women.

Sheryl: I’m okay with targeting — good targeting, at least. But we can improve our targeting, and you don’t need to be targeted just because you’re a woman — we have lots of other information about you.

Sheryl talking about misogynist post “kerfuffle,” as Kara calls it. User-generated content is always a challenge. There’s a bunch of stuff that stays up — it’s not hate, it doesn’t incite violence, but it’s distasteful. So our solution in those cases is that when the stuff is distasteful, we don’t allow the authors to remain anonymous.

Q: What about search? Is that the next big thing? How’s graph search going?

Sheryl: We learned the hard way not to roll out everything universally. That’s what we’re doing with graph search — tweaking it. “From the data we’re getting, it’s going very well.”

What about hashtags? “We’re not announcing anything.”

Q: I get that you want and need to put ads in the news feed. But when can you cut it off so I don’t get turned off?

Sheryl: We know. We get that people need to adjust to it. It can be positive if the ad is a good one. We want the ads to be as useful as the content. “We’re pretty far from that goal. We get it.”

Walt: Don’t you accept the possibility that people may just not want to see ads, period? No matter what kind of ad it is — at least in a part where they’re not used to seeing ads?

Sheryl: We have a billion users. So some things will jar someone. “That’s fine.” At Google, we figured out how to experiment with ad placement. We can do the same thing. “Our goal is to give you great information,” and we can improve both on the ad side, and the information side — we can make news feed content more useful.

Q: It took a while to make the iPhone a business device. Why haven’t you gone after social networking for business, instead of ceding it to LinkedIn?

Sheryl: Five years ago, you were asking me about throwing sheep on Facebook. We don’t do that anymore. People have fun on Facebook, but they also do serious things — a friend of mine is trying to save his wife’s life by asking for bone-marrow donors.

Q: Trust! It’s important. We trust Google. But Facebook, maybe not so much. And maybe that’s why Snapchat is growing — people are worried about those photos lingering around on Facebook.

Sheryl: Trust is a cornerstone for us. If you want to share a photo with one person, that’s what should happen. We need to be transparent about what’s happening on the site. We have always given you lots of options, when it comes to sharing, but it was too confusing. We are trying to simplify that, and make it more visual.

Q: But you don’t really want us to take content down, because that’s bad for your ad model.

Sheryl: I’m glad you said that, because it’s not true. We don’t need you to share more to make our ad model work better.

Walt: What do you think about temporary sharing, like Snapchat?

Sheryl: It’s very important.

Walt: Will you do something like that?

Sheryl: No product announcements.

We can’t do everything.

Walt: Are you going to make status and other stuff temporary?

Sheryl: No product announcements.

Kara: I love that you wrote this book. And you took crap from the “fucking assholes” with great style and grace.

And we’re done! Thanks for tuning in.

Full D11 Conference Coverage


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work