Facebook eyeing ads, letting users export data

But no public offering on tap yet

Facebook.com co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave some hints Wednesday about what's on tap from the current Web 2.0 darling: a possible advertising network and the ability for users to export the data from their profiles to outside applications.

But despite intense industry speculation about a possible initial public offering for the popular social networking service, Zuckerberg noted at the Web 2.0 Summit under way in San Francisco that "you have years before that event. I am not saying it's never going to happen. It's definitely years out."

Sooner, perhaps, Facebook users may be seeing an ad network on the site, Zuckerberg added, though he didn't provide details. In addition, the company is aiming to allow users to export the data they create on Facebook, he added, but declined to give a time frame for when this capability may be available.

"We want to get there," he noted. "We realize that this is a flaw in the system now."

Zuckerberg also touched on Facebook's privacy mechanisms, which have come under fire from New York's attorney general as part of a fraud investigation. Facebook Tuesday agreed to step up the policing of pornography, harassment and other inappropriate behavior on its site, settling the investigation by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Four years ago when Facebook first arrived online, a lot of people were not comfortable sharing their first and last names on the open Web, he stated. But, because Facebook limits access to this information to people the individual user knows, more people began to become more comfortable sharing that information.

"Giving people really tight control over how they shared other information ... is what makes the system work," Zuckerberg said. "It is why a lot more information is being shared on the Web today than has ever been before."

Zuckerberg was also asked to ensure the 100,000 developers who are building applications on top of the platform that Facebook won't take advantage of a service agreement that includes strong language about the service's right to revoke third-party applications built on the platform.

"Our intent there isn't to go around yanking applications, no," he noted. "I don't think it would be very good for us if we did that. We reserve the right to build anything and compete with any of our applications. We intend to do it on equal footing. It has been incredibly humbling to see all these people developing on top of something that is really early-stage at this point."

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld
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