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Facebook founder heckled at web conference

By Matthew Sparkes

Posted on 10 Mar 2008 at 12:01

A keynote talk with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg descended into chaos as the audience heckled the interviewer for failing to get to the point.

Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old billionaire, was the keynote speaker at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Business Week journalist Sarah Lacy took the stage to question Zuckerberg, but the audience quickly grew tired of the topics she focused on, claiming that the real issues were being ignored.

"Never, ever have I seen such a train wreck of an interview," claimed audience member, Jason Pontin, via Twitter.

Lacy finally allowed the crowd to take over, and Zuckerberg was subjected to an enthusiastic barrage of questions about the real issues facing the social networking site, such as privacy and data portability.

"The audience is asking Zuckerburg better questions than Lacy did," said former Microsoft blogger, Robert Scoble, via his Twitter feed.

When asked about Facebook's Beacon advertising system, which he said last year was the beginning of a new era of advertising, Zuckerberg admitted that his claims may have been premature.

"We probably got a little bit ahead of ourselves. We came across as knowing more than we really knew... We have a lot of things we need to build before we get there," admitted Zuckerberg.

Questions about the possible emergence of a rumoured Facebook music download service, following talks with record labels, were met with denial. "What's going on there is we talk to a lot of companies all the time... there are [already] music applications on Facebook," Zuckerberg said. "As a company we are out building relationships, but at this point I can say we have nothing to talk about right now."

Another popular topic from the audience was data portability and privacy. In recent months several scandals have emerged over security vulnerabilities in the site and the company's practices when dealing with users' personal information.

"Almost all of the mistakes we made, we didn't give people enough control. We need to give people complete control over their information," said Zuckerberg. "The more control and the more granular the control, the more info people will share and the more we will be able to achieve our goals."

Another revelation was that recent management changes at Facebook may have been due to a disagreement over a potential takeover bid from Yahoo. The company offered $1 billion for Facebook last year, but the deal was turned down, with most staff opposing the offer.

"We made some management changes," said Zuckerberg, when asked what happened to those that didn't.

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