Facebook is a mobile-first company, although they've made some mistakes on that score, particularly when the company deployed HTML5 apps instead of native solutions. That was the word yesterday from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in an interview at TechCrunch's annual Disrupt conference.
Zuckerberg explained that in the process of trying to perfect Facebook's mobile offerings, he put too much stock in the hype around HTML5, which he’d hoped would allow the company to experiment and make changes to the product easier to deploy. Instead, it resulted in a poor user experience.
“The biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5,” Zuckerberg said in a video of the interview posted to TechCrunch’s website. Zuckerberg said that experiment wasted two years of the company’s time.
Since then, Facebook has dropped HTML5 altogether in favor of native apps, and it’s made all the difference. According to Zuckerberg, iOS users are already consuming double the news feed items through the native applications as they were through the HTML5 version.
Zuckerberg said that while he's "disappointed" with how the company's stock has preformed since going public, the general public isn’t aware of the kinds of progress the company is making behind the scenes, and the switch to native apps was just one such example.
"I think it's easy for a lot of folks, without us being out there talking about what we're doing, to really underestimate how … fundamentally good mobile is for us," Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg said mobile brings more users to Facebook, and those users typically are more engaged and spend more time than users who access the site via a desktop. But perhaps most importantly to investors who invested in the company’s stock is that Zuckerberg believes that mobile has the potential to make more money than even the desktop platform, and that will be the main challenge for the company going forward.
Key to Facebook’s success in the mobile arena will be whether the company can figure out a way to serve effective mobile ads in a way that won’t annoy its users.
As for rumors that Facebook is building its own phone, Zuckerberg was happy to put those rumors to rest, saying that while it’s a “juicy” story, getting into hardware is clearly the “wrong strategy” for the company.
The interview was Zuckerberg’s first public appearance since the company went public, and investors apparently liked what they heard. Shares of Facebook were up almost 6 percent in early morning trading today to $20.10.