Zuckerberg: Investors underestimating Facebook12/09/2012 - 07:06:15
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said he had not enjoyed seeing his company's stock pummelled on Wall Street this summer, but was relishing the opportunity to prove his critics wrong.
"I would rather be in a cycle where people underestimate us because I'd rather be underestimated," chief executive Mr Zuckerberg said. "I think it gives us the latitude to go out and make some big bets."
Mr Zuckerberg, 28, made his remarks before a standing-room-only audience at a tech conference in San Francisco in his first interview since Facebook's rocky initial public offering in May.
The social networking leader's stock has lost nearly half its value since the IPO. More than $50bn (€39bn) has been taken off Facebook's market value as the company's shares have fallen from $38 to yesterday's closing price of $19.43.
No-one has lost as much as Mr Zuckerberg, who has seen the value of his Facebook holdings fall about more than $9bn (€7bn) - that while hearing more sceptics second-guess his ability to lead the company that he founded eight years ago in his Harvard University dormitory.
Since speaking during Facebook's first earnings conference call as a public company nearly seven weeks ago, Mr Zuckerberg has remained largely out of the spotlight.
Wearing a grey T-shirt, jeans and trainers, Mr Zuckerberg looked at ease through his half-hour appearance.
He smiled frequently and even chuckled a few times before the San Francisco audience composed largely of fellow geeks who, like him, tend to enjoy talking about computer coding and building cool products instead of discussing revenue growth and business strategies.
Yet he clearly was aiming many of his remarks at investors, emphasising that Facebook cared about making money as well as pursuing his mission to make the world a "more open and connected place".
He also repeated his belief that the company would work out numerous ways to profit from the growing number of its 955 million worldwide users who visit it through mobile applications instead of web browsers on desktop computers.
Mr Zuckerberg said the performance of Facebook's stock "has obviously been disappointing", but said it was a great time to "double down" on the company's future.
"I think it is really easy to for folks to underestimate how really fundamentally good mobile is for us," he told his interviewer, former blogger-turned venture capitalist Michal Arrington, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.
Mr Zuckerberg shouldered some of the blame for the misperceptions about Facebook's mobile prospects, saying he made a mistake by initially relying on a computer coding called HTML 5 so the company's applications could run on a multitude of different mobile operating systems without making a lot of changes.
That resulted in sub-par experiences for many users, Mr Zuckerberg said, prompting Facebook to use more customisation tools to account for the differences in the software that run different devices such as the iPhone and Android phones.
Some investors evidently liked what he had to say - Facebook shares gained 66 cents, or 3.4% in yesterday's extended trading after he took the stage.
The ubiquity of smartphones has created problems for Facebook and other advertising-dependent internet companies because the smaller screens on those devices have less space to show commercial messages around the main content.
One way Facebook will address that challenge is by inserting more ads into the mobile news feeds that highlight status updates and photos shared by users' friends and families, according to Mr Zuckerberg.
He once again tried to shoot down recurring speculation that Facebook is developing its own smartphone like Apple and Google.
"It is so clearly the wrong strategy for us," he said. "It doesn't move the needle for us."
Mr Zuckerberg indicated Facebook was likely to intensify its rivalry with Google by developing more ways to search on its website. As it is, Facebook already processes about a billion search requests a day, he said, "and we basically are not even trying".
That laid-back attitude toward search would eventually change, Mr Zuckerberg said, although he would not provide specifics. A more robust search engine "would be one obvious, interesting thing for us to do in the future", he said.
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