Highlights from Mark Zuckerberg's Townhall session at IIT Delhi

Highlights from Mark Zuckerberg's Townhall session at IIT Delhi

Thursday October 29, 2015,

5 min Read

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook held a TownHall Q&A at IIT Delhi earlier today. Facebook has recently been facing a lot of flack for their Free Basics initiative(earlier internet.org) with many considering it to be a violation of net neutrality. Facebook has been staunch in their support for the initiative but bowing to pressure recently opened up its platform to more developers.

Here are some of the key highlights from the session:


On the importance of India in the global scheme of things

Talking about Facebook's keen interest in India, Zuckerberg added, "Our mission is to connect everyone in the world. India is the largest democracy in the world and you cannot connect the world without connecting India."

About their Free basics(Internet.org) initiative, he elaborated about how it is currently live in 24 countries across the world with about 15 Million users and their plans to expand it further. Talking about challenges faced in connecting more people to the internet, he noted that three are three main issues.

  • Availability: Some users do not have access to data plans, smartphones or laptops to connect to the internet.
  • Affordability: While some have access to basic smartphones, the cost of internet data poses a challenge.
  • Awareness: Some potential users have access to internet enabled devices and can afford data, but don't have sufficient awareness and know-how about the benefits of being connected to the internet.

Facebook is looking to break these barriers by investing in new ways to bring connectivity to the masses. Some of their steps in that direction are a more optimised mobile app that consumes less data, initiative to beam internet down to remote places through solar-powered airplanes etc.

Technology the ultimate superpower?

A student asked Zuckerberg, what superpower he would want if aliens granted him one. His response was that technology is now giving people superpowers and went on to explain how Occulus rift will help people 'teleport' themselves to an alternate reality. He said, "People can be in completely different places but will come together to experience something awesome. We could simulate gravity and play a game of ping pong in space, underwater, or anti-gravity conditions. Soon, you'll be able to put on a headset and go anywhere in the world they wish."

Facebook has shifted its focus from text and images and are now giving greater attention to videos on their platform. Zuckerberg added, In this golden age of the Internet, videos are going to be the primary way to share ideas. But as rich as the video is in terms of telling a story, people want an even richer medium and that's where virtual reality comes in."

Does internet.org support net neutrality?

Zuckerberg added, "Yeah, absolutely. Countries are currently debating and figuring out what net neutrality needs to be. We've been working with authorities on regulation. It is really important that we have regulations that prevent companies from doing things that hurt people. For example if an operator is charging you extra or is making you pay more, regulations are going to prevent that. Good net neutrality provisions help people,”

Zuckerberg insisted that their intentions with Internet.org are pure and that the backlash so far has been from people who already have access to the internet. He said, “Most pushing for net-neutrality already have access to internet. But those who aren’t can’t sign an online petition for an increase in the Internet. We all have a moral responsibility to look out for those who don’t have a voice,”

There is no 'magic' 

Zuckerberg stated that in their entire journey there was no 'Eureka moment' and it didn't occur to him that it would go global as fast as it did. He said,"I built the first version of Facebook to connect to people in my school. Then we just kept improving and building things along the journey. We just kept doing the next thing and people kept saying this is just a fad."

Talking about future developments in the pipeline, he elaborated about an artificial intelligence project that would describe contents of photos to the visually challenged.

The elements of ideal startup

Zuckerberg noted that of late he has seen a lot of people who first decide to start a company and then think of an idea, instead of the other way round. He said, "All great companies that I know, started with people who cared about something. In most cases entrepreneurs who built great companies never expected that it would end up being as big as it did. So my advice is focus on what you care about and not the decision to start a company."

He also believes that companies that have multiple founders are generally more successful. He added, " As strong as one person is, there is no way, one person can deal with all issues of running a company."

Multiple founders and a great team help keep you focused and more resilient. Zuckerberg cited names of his colleagues Sheryl Sandberg, Chris Hughes, Jay Parikh and others as the pillars behind Facebook.

Mistakes along the way..

When asked about what he considered his biggest mistake during his Facebook journey, Zuckerberg laughed and added,"Only one? I made all kinds of mistakes. Anything you can think of from product to technical errors. I was a college student when I started and learnt everything by trial and error."

He believes that instead of focusing on what mistakes on should avoid, one should instead focus on the ones that drive them and improve.

Amber alert 

Social Media currently plays a big role in spreading awareness and real time information during calamities. Regarding this Zuckerberg spoke about 'AMBER Alert' that is currently live in United States and Canada. If children going missing in an area, Facebook shows images and other relevant details in specific users newsfeed to help identify and locate kids that are missing. Zuckerberg added that it had been about a year since the feature was launched and it has been received well by audiences with one child having been saved so far through the initiative.