Ten years ago today, on Feb. 4, 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room.
“I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook,” Zuckerberg recalled in a post, published today, to mark the platform’s 10th year anniversary. “I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world.”
A decade on, with a global user base of 1.23 billion people, 29-year-old Zuckerberg can take comfort in knowing that he's gone an enormous way towards achieving that goal while changing the meaning of words such as "like" and "friend."
On the occasion of the platform's 10-year anniversary, Billboard spoke with Facebook's Strategic Partnerships lead Ime Archibong at Midem, who was at the industry conference networking with and learning from the music business. In this exclusive interview, Archibong discusses how the company's move to mobile worked successfully, why -- contrary to recent reports -- the kids still care about Facebook, potentially game-changing new products like its just-launched Paper, and where he thinks the social media giant will be at in the next ten years.
Billboard: Ten years of Facebook today, right?
Ime Archibong: Today, yes, Feb 4, 2004 was when Mark launched it from his dorm room.
And the Winklevoss' were screaming...
[Laughs] I was not a part of the company back then, so I don't know.
When did you join?
I joined in late 2010, just a little over three years ago.
Can you explain your role at the company?
I lead product partnership team that focuses on our internal Facebook stakeholders, so that is our products—everything from Messenger, Newsfeed to Search to the Platform itself and on down the line. Our external stakeholders are all industries except for games. My team works with companies like Apple, Amazon, Dropbox, AirBnB, Nike -- anyone that is doing a product integration with Facebook across a bunch of different pillars.
How has it changed much over three years?
When I first started, we were just getting a lot of energy around the platform at the time and Open Graph. Our thesis at the time was what we saw in the gaming space in that there's going to be a bunch of different industries that we're going to plug into the Open Graph that take off. So we worked really closely with folks like the Spotifys, the Pandoras, and the Deezers of the world. In fact, there was a whole suite of different music apps we were working with at the time in order to build hooks into the platform. We recognized pretty early on that if Facebook was going to do something in the music space or in music industry, it wasn't just primarily going to be through the folks who were creating and delivering the music or the folks who were consuming the music. It was really important for us to know the entire ecosystem. So we got to know the artists, the labels, the managers, those folks, to make sure we had different perspectives and agendas at the table for when we were actually doing the building for the entire ecosystem as opposed to say just Spotify.
Your mobile strategy has been successful -- you've just had another great quarter. Can you talk about that?
We had a strong quarter. It was absolutely led by mobile. We were a web-focused company three years ago, so we would walk into Mark’s office and everything would be: "Hey, here are the mocks for the desktop version of the product that we’re going to build." And I think we all took a step back and did a bunch of things in the company that signaled: "This is the future. Mobile is the future. It’s right here." We’ve already seen the trends in our user base -- we know where the mobile phone and smartphone market is going. We needed to re-pivot how we thought about our products, to make sure that they were being made for our mobile applications. There was probably a period two years ago when you couldn’t walk into Mark’s office to demo a product for him if you weren’t showing him the mock on a mobile device before anything else. So strong signals like that helped with this re-pivot.
More from Midem
I talked yesterday on the panel about how music-related ads don’t feel like advertisements today. I actually think they are some of the best ads on Facebook. It’s just a call to action. "Hey, Ime, by the way, Jay-Z is just down the street this Friday. If you want to pick up tickets you’d better pick them up." That’s is a kick in the pants for me. Not an advertisement.
A recent report claimed that Facebook has become less "cool" to the teen market as they shift to Instagram, Tumblr, and other social platforms. How are you addressing that?
It’s funny, I was actually just strolling through my newsfeed and saw a Mashable piece this morning which said something along the lines of '73% of U.S. teens are still using Facebook.' The majority of Americans that are teens are still accessing Facebook and going to Facebook. Instagram, which you said a lot of people are going to, is owned by Facbook. The teen segment is an important segment. More often than not, teens are arbiters for what’s coming in the future. But we have never gone and built products specifically for different segments. Mark has always wanted to build a beautiful product, to increase sharing and give people the tools to share and talk about those stories with their friends. And it boils down to that.
Where do you see yourself in another ten years?
Still building killer products that are going to light up the world. In the last ten years we have been laying down the foundation and infrastructure to build up. It’s a lot of work to connect the world. It’s not just people-to-people. It's people to their favorite musicians. It’s people to their favorite brands. So we have spent years and years doing that. We still have a long way to go. One of the things that we talk about is this initiative called Internet.org, which is quest to help bring data and basic services and utilities to the other 5 billion people on this planet who don't have access to the internet. Those are people that want to be connected to this social fabric that Facebook is laying down -- but we have a long way to go I think, even with the basic infrastructure. Once you get that in place, the products and experiences that you can build on top of that -- I always use the word delightful because I think it’s the best way to capture it. The Paper app that we've just launched and released for example hit the iTunes Store yesterday morning.
It's essentially your Newsfeed in a different format. It's a way to consume, it's a way to share, but I think one of the philosophies is that it really honors the content, honors the message and the medium, so it's got pretty visuals -- let me show it to you. It essentially strips away a lot of the chrome that you used to have on Facebook. It really honors the content.
What do you make of many at Midem claiming the tech companies are not remunerating artists? How do you respond to that?
It's an interesting question. Someone on yesterday's panel asked [about that] and I was like, "I thought we were taking about data... " I said there's an evolutional lifecycle for how these big companies will touch the industry. If you think about it, there's people who have been coming to Midem longer than Facebook has been around. Ken Hertz [of Hertz, Lichtenstein & Young on stage] said he's been coming to Midem for 25 years. I'm here to talk about Facebook, but also to learn -- that's why I've been sitting in all of these panels. We need to understand what the industry needs from us and what the industry doesn't need from us.
The way we see the value exchange happening right now is somewhat obvious to us, and it's substantial too. Data is one thing. These people are getting tremendous insights into their fan base. I don't know if you have played around with an artist's dashboard or a page's dashboard. Seeing how many people are connected to you, where are they from, male or female, age group -- there are tremendous insights you finally have on your fans directly, one-on-one. The other value we give right now is promotional. It's a fantastic promotional tool. You're no longer stapling flyers to the wall outside in NYC trying to get people to come to your show. You can blast [all of] New York City from the age of 18-25 who love hip-hop music and have liked Rihanna. You can just get so targeted.
How many Facebook friends do you have?
I think I'm creeping near the 3,000 mark.