Last week, Mark Zuckerberg hosted an impromptu Q&A session on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) where he invited his followers to ask him anything. The CEO has been traveling around the world hosting town hall-style events where he invites users to meet him in person and ask questions -- this one opened the doors to anyone on the Internet.
Richard Branson and Shakira showed up, as well as some notable tech reporters. Users asked questions ranging from what color is that darn dress to how to get a job at Facebook.
For investors, here are some of the key points from the Q&A session.
Richard Branson: Founder of the Virgin Group
I share your view that it is crucial to connect the two-thirds of the world that don't currently have access to the Internet. What do you think will be the biggest benefits of this?
Most people talk about the clear benefits to all the people who will get Internet access and don't have it today. Those benefits are many: access to education, health information, jobs and so on . . . But one thing that we often overlook in this discussion is how everyone who is already connected will benefit from having everyone online. Think about how many brilliant entrepreneurs there are out there who have great ideas and the will to change the world but just lack basic tools to do so today . . . Once they get connected, we may have 3x as many good ideas and amazing new services built that will benefit everyone around the world.
Mr. Zuckerberg sees the Internet.org project as a key part of the future of Facebook. Not necessarily because it will have the most direct positive impact on his company but because he believes it will benefit the world, and he is in a position to drive change.
And there are positive implications for Facebook, too -- the most obvious one being that connecting more people to the Internet will increase the number of members on Facebook.
Zuckerberg is pointing to another opportunity in his response. Widespread Internet access opens the doors for new tech entrepreneurs, which Facebook is well positioned to help through its Parse developer platform, Facebook Audience Network for monetization, or app-install ads to boost adoption.
Josh Constine: Senior Writer at TechCrunch
What's your opinion on the net neutrality implications of Internet.org providing free access to only a select few "basic Internet services" in the developing world, while other services require a data plan, and how Facebook/Internet.org is in the position to choose what services are free?
I think net neutrality is important to make sure network operators don't discriminate and limit access to services people want to use, especially in countries where most people are online. For people who are not on the Internet though, having some connectivity and some ability to share is always much better than having no ability to connect and share at all. That's why programs like Internet.org are important and can co-exist with net neutrality regulations.
It is important to note that the Internet.org app does not provide unlimited Internet access. Instead, it opens the door to select services like Wikipedia, weather, and, of course, Facebook. Considering the company is helping provide the service, it is in a position to favor its own products over others. As a result, Zuckerberg will have to defend Internet.org against accusations that it violates net neutrality regulations.
With increasing concerns among regulators regarding net neutrality, Facebook may face tough challenges as it expands Internet.org beyond countries where Internet penetration is relatively low. Another comment from Zuckerberg noted that he plans to eventually offer Internet.org to anyone.
Piya Sinha-Roy: Reuters
Will Facebook be likely to ramp up original video content (such an original series or even movies) in the near future? What about content telling stories in the virtual reality realm?
Mr. Zuckerberg did not get around to answering this one, but it is certainly worth pondering for the company as it dives deeper into native video content. Facebook is ultimately in the business of holding the attention of its users, so it can serve them more ads.
Original video content -- or content from existing web stars exclusive to Facebook -- accomplishes two things. First, it keeps users on Facebook and keeps them coming back more often. Second, it allows the company to display more video ads, potentially taking ad dollars away from television.
Developing content for virtual reality -- whether it is video content or some sort of interactive software -- is something Facebook is already interested in through its Oculus branch. As Sinha-Roy points out in her own article from January, Oculus has already formed an in-house film studio for the platform. Zuckerberg believes VR is the next computing platform, but it needs to develop more content before it is adopted.
Mark Zuckerberg answered quite a few more questions about Internet.org, Oculus, and the future of several other Facebook products. He plans to hold more Q&A sessions like this in the future, which could help give investors a better idea of where Zuckerberg plans to take the company.
Adam Levy has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Facebook. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.