Web 2.0 Summit: Facebook Plans To More Than Double Size In A Year - InformationWeek

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Web 2.0 Summit: Facebook Plans To More Than Double Size In A Year

Mark Zuckerberg estimates an additional 400 workers will be needed to help enable developers to build third-party applications that run on top of Facebook services.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive of Facebook, on Wednesday said he plans to double his workforce over the next year, as the social networking site considers online advertising and evolves into a platform for Web developers.

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, talks with John Battelle on stage at Web 2.0 Summit 2007 (click image to enlarge).
(click for image gallery)

Zuckerberg, wearing jeans and his signature sandals, told attendees at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco that he expected the number of workers at Facebook to increase to 700 in a year from the more than 300 employees today. Privately held Facebook is one of the fastest growing online social networks with more than 47 million active users.

Zuckerberg, who was the lead speaker at the conference's opening general session, told interviewer John Battelle, an author and founder of the site Searchblog, that product development trumped revenue at the company, and breaking even was enough for now. "We don't want to be a company that burns through a lot of revenue as we grow," he said.

That revenue growth may be soon in coming, although currently the company has yet to turn a profit. Still, analysts estimate the company is worth $15 billion. That kind of number has drawn out several potential stakeholders including Microsoft reportedly.

In hinting at future revenue potential, Zuckerberg said, "There may be something in ads," but the CEO refused to elaborate, saying more would be announced in the months ahead.

Zuckerberg discussed the work Facebook has done recently in exposing application programming interfaces (APIs) that enable developers to build third-party applications that run on top of Facebook services. "It's been incredibly humbling to see all these people develop on something that's really in early development," he said of the platform, noting that the site has attracted 100,000 developers. "We're going to be working on this for years, and it's going to be tens of years before this matures."

Facebook currently has the right to drop any application from its platform, which means developers currently have no guarantee that what they build today will continue to work in the future. Zuckerberg defended the policy as necessary because of the immaturity of the platform, and the uncertainty over how the 3-year-old Facebook would evolve. "We don't know the full set of risks or what could happen," he said. "We need to make sure that we have the flexibility."

Nevertheless, Zuckerberg assured the audience that "our intent is not to randomly yank out applications."

For now, Facebook won't allow users to export their data to a third-party application, or Web site. That, however, is a capability that the site would eventually add. "We want to get there. That's definitely the goal," Zuckerberg said.

Asked by Battelle whether he would comment on speculation that Facebook would eventually need to hire a "grownup" to run the business, the 23-year-old Zuckerberg said, "There's nothing to comment on." He then added that there were very few CEOs today with experience in social networks.

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