It’s Mobile World Congress, which means it’s time to hear from Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook founder made a surprise appearance at Sunday’s Samsung Galaxy S7 launch, but all eyes were on Zuckerberg on Monday evening in Barcelona as he sat down with Jessi Hempel, Senior Writer for WIRED magazine for a one-on-one touching on a myriad of issues surrounding the tech and mobile worlds. Here are some key takeaways:
Internet for all
For the 2nd year in a row at Mobile World Congress, Zuckerberg used much of his keynote to talk about Facebook’s goal of getting everyone in the world access to the internet. There have been some roadblocks, namely in India, to which Zuckerberg said “Facebook isn’t a company that hits a roadblock and gives up.” On Monday, Zuckerberg spoke most specifically about Internet.org’s testing of drones, satellites and solar-powered planes that hope to bring connectivity to otherwise offline areas of the globe.
Zuckerberg sees tremendous opportunity for the mobile industry amidst the burgeoning futures of video and virtual reality, as well as more people getting access to the internet across the globe. As video continues to advance towards becoming the primary form of interpersonal communication, mobile networks will need to keep improving to support user needs. 5G connectivity will go a long way towards that, but Zuckerberg admitted that he was “disappointed” with much of the talk of 5G so far at Mobile World Congress. While 5G connectivity will be crucial in many ways, he urged the audience—and by extension, the mobile community—not to just continue to make money by doubling down on “faster connections for rich people.” He said: “Let’s make sure we finish the job.” The job, of course, is Internet.org’s stated goal of getting everyone in the world on the internet, a goal that other tech companies may not necessarily be prioritizing as much as he is.
Facebook’s investment in Oculus Rift was a clear indication that the company sees a bright future for virtual reality. Zuckerberg believes that VR is part of a natural evolution in how human beings express themselves and consume the things they care about: We used to document our personal lives mainly through text (and speech, of course), and have progressed to utilizing photos and videos. “That’s not the end of the line,” Zuckerberg said. “There’s always a more immersive way you want to share and experience the moments in your life.” And that’s VR; Zuckerberg said that he hopes that eventually people will be able to capture and share “entire scenes”. Instead of just seeing a baby take their first step, friends and family members will be able to feel as though they’re in the room as it happened (“probably a 4k screen on each eye”, he alluded). Of course, just after suggesting that mobile companies help focus on getting more people on the internet before jacking up connectivity to 5G, Zuckerberg mentioned that sharing entire scenes on the go “will require a pretty meaningful upgrade” to current mobile networks. The same goes for video, if it is to truly become the primary form of content we consume, as Zuckerberg believes it will be.[For more on the growing mobile ecosystem and the opportunities therein, view OgilvyRED’s recently-published The Dollars And Sense Of Connectivity]
Apple vs. The US government
Zuckerberg gave a political answer when asked about the ongoing battle between Apple and the United States government, as the latter is attempting to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers, a move which many view as a slippery slope. “We’re sympathetic with Tim (Cook, Apple CEO) and Apple on this one,” Zuckerberg said, but did speak to Facebook’s willingness to cooperate with the government. He went as far as saying that running a big networking company brings along a “pretty big responsibility” to help prevent terrorism, stating that the company will take the opportunity to work with governments if presented. Though he did express support for Apple, he expressed mainly a skepticism that the government’s request was an ineffective way to increase security.
‘A symbiotic relationship’
That’s how Zuckerberg referred to Facebook’s relationship with operators, dismissing any sort of serious “tension”. Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s apps, and apps like them, are driving demand for what people want to get on mobile networks. And as the networks continue to improve—so that everyone can share high-quality video and perhaps VR content—Facebook and other companies will build better products, to share more content which drives more mobile demand, and on and on. As one improves, the other will too, and will create the need for one another.
While the opportunity is there for all involved to make gobs of money, Zuckerberg insists that isn’t his primary goal. Much of what is going on with Facebook and Internet.org has a philanthropic core to it. More people getting online and being able to share their experiences, he hopes, will lead to more global empathy. He concluded by saying a lot of things in the world are getting better, despite negative “narratives”. It seems as though Zuckerberg is doing his best to change those narratives.