Facebook's mission is to connect everyone to the world: Mark Zuckerberg at MWC 2016

Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage at MWC 2016 to answer a number of burning questions regarding Facebook's plans for the future, the failure of FreeBasics in India and getting Internet connectivity to billions. Here are the highlights from the show floor.

Mark Zuckerberg took to the stage at MWC 2016 to answer a number of burning questions regarding Facebook's plans for the future, the failure of Free Basics in India and getting Internet connectivity to billions. Here are the highlights from the show floor.

Thoughts on Free Basics

Among the more consistent themes for the evening was Mark Zuckerberg's insistence that Facebook believes that everyone in the world should have access to the Internet. "It's 2016 and 4 billion people still don't have access to the Internet", he said. "Facebook's mission is to connect everyone in the world", he added.

Mark insisted that projects like Free Basics aren't really about making money, that they're about getting people online. He points out that none of the Basic services  run ads and that they've successfully managed to bring 19 million people in 38 countries online. If there are people offline, Facebook has failed to achieve its goal. Facebook didn't start out as a company for making profits, but sometimes, a for-profit company is a good way to change the world.

free basics failure zuckerberg mwc

So why did Free Basics failed in India? What did he learn? "Every country is different. What works in one country doesn't work in the other" India's ban on differential pricing has effectively killed the project and he's disappointed, but that doesn't mean he'll stop trying to achieve his ultimate goal.

He sees hope for projects like the Telco Infra or Express Wi-Fi, wherein Facebook works with operators and individuals/entrepreneurs to bring coverage to areas without coverage. The idea is that Facebook would provide the infrastructure at a cost and help get the next billion people online. "If the equipment gets cheaper, we get more coverage."

Internet for everyone

Zuckerberg mwc no internet

In keeping with the 'Internet for everyone' ideal, Mark Zuckerberg said that providing really fast Internet, accessible Internet to a select few isn't the way forward. The only way we can move ahead is if everyone in the world has access to fast, reliable Internet. He insisted that this was the mantle that everyone at MWC must take up, particularly with services like 5G. "Folks here need to focus on improving Internet connectivity. We must finish our real job and ensure that everyone is connected", he added. He claimed that to extend the networks, the cost of infrastructure must come down.

Facebook has been working on ways to do just that, bring fast and reliable Internet to everyone. They don't know how yet, but one of the more interesting and unusual projects that they're working on is one that uses drones. The idea is to beam down Internet from solar powered drones that rove the skies, but that the drones would beam down Internet via lasers, making for a much higher bandwidth connection.

Thoughts on Virtual Reality (VR)

zuckerberg mwc 360 video vr

The most compelling takeaway from Mark Zuckerberg's interview was his vision for the future of social networking. We can't put it any better than he did with the following example. When he was a kid, his mom noted down the date and time of the moment when he first walked, his cousin took a photo of her first child, his sister took a video but "I want to capture that scene with a 360-degree camera."

Zuckerberg says that in the social context, VR is far more than just gaming. It's about immersion, putting people in the moment, giving them an opportunity to experience a scene first hand, even though they're not really there.

zuckerberg mwc video

All the content, and the quality of that content, that we create and consume is a function of bandwidth. Since 2011, taking and sharing photos has been easier than ever. Now, it's all about video, and services like 4G and 5G will facilitate that. The future is 360-degree video, VR or otherwise. Zuckerberg points out that a truly immersive VR experience will require 4K video per eye and that the truly killer apps for 5G networks will be those that will let you live stream such experiences at retina quality.

He's also quick to point out that people have already watched a million hours of video on Gear VR, and that millions more watch 360-degree video on Facebook everyday. 360-degree video is the future, we just need to be ready for it.

The power of video

zuckerberg mwc mobile video

When asked about his experience where he live-streamed a video on Facebook, attracting 150,000 viewers within 5 minutes, Zuckerberg said it was a very empowering moment. "That's a new power that people didn't have in the past," he said.

He further said that while someone like a public figure will be love to be able to connect directly to the people, video means a lot more to the average person. "It gives people a more intimate and raw environment to just be themselves with the people they love."

Telcos vs app developers

Zuckerberg spoke about the relationship between telcos and app developers, calling it a symbiotic relationship. He said that app developers and their apps drive demand for bandwidth, which is ultimately what telcos sell. "People don't pay to use Facebook, they pay to use data."

He insists that there has to be an evolution towards data rather than voice and texting. The transition has already been made in a lot of places, but it's a business challenge and must be overcomed if progress is to be made.

On regulation, he says that "we need the freedom to innovate, even in a regulatory model" and cannot understand why app developers like Facebook have to operate under the same rules as operators who build physical networks. "I'm lost. We're not doing the same thing."

Apple vs. FBI

Zuckerberg on apple mwc 2016

"We're sympathetic with Apple." Zuckerberg noted that people want encryption and they will use it, that it's not right to block it. While he agrees that stopping terrorism is definitely the right thing to do, he says that building back doors is neither effective nor the right thing to do.

Facebook has done it's part to fight terrorism and will continue to do so.

On donating 99 percent of his wealth

When his daughter was born, Mark Zuckerberg announced that he would be donating 99 percent of his wealth for the betterment of the world. When asked on how we planned to go about it, noting that he didn't just create a foundation and "slap" his name on it, he said that there were many different ways to go about improving the world.

"A lot of narratives are about how things are getting worse. I feel it's the opposite. Things are getting better and technology is integral to it. Our children should live dramatically better lives than all of us have been able to."

To do that, he says, there is no fixed route. Maybe it's education, providing children with the right tools or personalized learning, maybe it's by donating a chunk of money to the right people. Sometimes it's about investing, maybe in research. Zuckerberg wants the flexibility to do that and says that just creating a foundation will not work. "We're going to be working on this for decades. We have to figure out what will have the greatest impact in improving education, health, etc."

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