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Zuckerberg sets mobile optimization as Facebook’s top priority

Facebook’s Mark Zucker­berg has come out fight­ing after a three-month silence in which the social net­work­ing giant’s share val­ue has tum­bled alarmingly.

Speak­ing at the Techcrunch Dis­rupt con­fer­ence on Wednes­day, Zucker­berg can­did­ly addressed the fraught issue of his company’s fal­ter­ing efforts to grasp the mobile nettle.

A mobile-pro­pelled freefall

Recent reports have high­light­ed the nerve-shred­ding $157 mil­lion loss Face­book suf­fered since its IPO in May; dur­ing the same peri­od, the net worth of the com­pa­ny plunged by $50 bil­lion.  These knuck­le-whiten­ing declines are at least in part con­nect­ed to Facebook’s fail­ure to devel­op a robust mobile plat­form — a short­com­ing that has cost the com­pa­ny dear­ly giv­en that 955 mil­lion of its users rou­tine­ly access their Face­book pages through mobile devices.

Face­book wants to emu­late the spec­tac­u­lar growth rate shown by social news site Red­dit, but Zucker­berg is shrewd enough to know that he’s got a lot of con­vinc­ing and reas­sur­ing to do.  Need­less to say, every con­tent man­ag­er, com­mu­ni­ty man­ag­er and social media man­ag­er will be intrigued about his views on the way for­ward with regard to mobile technology.

While he didn’t pull any rab­bits out of the hat, he didn’t dis­ap­point either, open­ly stat­ing that Facebook’s top pri­or­i­ty was opti­miz­ing its ser­vice for mobile gad­gets.  Grasp­ing the bull by the horns, Zucker­berg can­did­ly acknowl­edged that his com­pa­ny had “burned two years” exper­i­ment­ing with the HTML5 cod­ing pro­to­col to lit­tle effect — but it’s clear that he now con­sid­ers this a Face­book turkey.

A con­fi­dent performance

Unlike some of his more hes­i­tant pub­lic per­for­mances in the past, Zucker­berg man­aged to sound plau­si­bly opti­mistic when he said, “I think it is real­ly easy for folks to under­es­ti­mate how real­ly fun­da­men­tal­ly good mobile is for us.”  Scotch­ing rumors that Face­book was about to devel­op its own smart­phone, which wouldn’t “move the nee­dle” even if it attract­ed 10 – 20 mil­lion peo­ple, he affirmed his com­mit­ment to build­ing a sys­tem that could be inte­grat­ed into every mobile device whether the plat­form was Android, iOS or Mobile Web.

Giv­en that Facebook’s shares surged by 8 per­cent direct­ly after his appear­ance, the young CEO appears to have calmed some agi­tat­ed nerves.  Wall Street ana­lyst Ben Schechter praised Zuckerberg’s per­for­mance, adding that it was crit­i­cal for investors to hear direct­ly from him.

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