For anyone still wondering if Mark Zuckerberg plans to run for president, today should dispel that myth. It appears that his tour of America — which many speculated is an effort to score political points — was designed to give the 33-year-old CEO a chance to learn about human behavior, in the physical and digital worlds, in order for him to build a better product. He wants to turn Facebook into a place where users form popular groups and hang out together, a lot.
Zuckerberg chose a peculiar — and telling — location to announce to the world that, after much research and reflection, he is changing the mission of his company. He wasn’t at his Silicon Valley campus, nestled between ping pong tables and bean bags (standard tech iconography).
Today, the CEO explained, Facebook’s mission will change to focus on the activity levels of users, and to support the most active so that they can keep building the digital spaces that draw in the masses. In official language, the new mission is to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
The company is releasing new tools that allow people who build Facebook groups to see a bit of the treasure trove of data that the social media platform historically has hoarded — like the times of day that group members are most engaged. Users will be able to schedule a post in advance — an announcement that garnered thunderous applause.
Zuckerberg wants to get 1 billion Facebook users to join “meaningful communities.” For the last six months, his team has been running an experiment to have algorithms reorganize users’ digital lives by suggesting groups that may be of interest — perhaps one for nature lovers or for Christians, groups that three or four friends just joined. He explained “most people don’t seek out communities in the physical world or online. Either your friends invite you or on Facebook we suggest them for you.”
He posits that through these algorithm-driven groups, Facebook is helping TO save us from the social isolation of the physical world: “If we can do this, it will not only turn around the whole decline in community membership we’ve seen for decades, it will start to strengthen our social fabric and bring the world closer together.”