While it might feel like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) has always been around and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has been a tech titan for decades, the social network is only 11 years old and its founder just turned 31.
That makes Zuckerberg -- who famously founded his company while in college -- incredibly young to be in his present position. Achieving such massive success at an early age is extremely rare, giving the CEO insights few others have experienced.
The Mark Zuckerberg who at Harvard University had an idea that somehow overcame the odds to become one of the largest companies in the world is not the same guy who leads Facebook now. He might look the same and still dress like a college kid on a budget, but he's wiser and more mature, which shows in his approach to business.
Zuckerberg used the occasion of his 31st birthday, May 14, to hold a town hall question-and-answer session at Facebook's headquarters, where he shared insights, some serious and others less so.
It's about listening
The CEO's first bit of wisdom came before he took a question as he explained why he holds the Q&A sessions in the first place. He noted that they were formerly internal events that allowed him to hear opinions he might not otherwise. Opening them to the public offers the opportunity to hear "the issues that you guys have with what we're doing."
He noted that listening helps the company "serve you better and build better products."
Even acknowledging that he cares about that is a big step for an executive who emerged on the scene with a bit of a know-it-all attitude. Listening to, and even sometimes heeding, consumer opinions demonstrates that Zuckerberg has grown in his years at the helm of the social media giant.
Oculus and VR are going to be big
Zuckerberg seemed excited at the prospects for the company's Oculus headset and virtual reality in general.
"Every 10 or 15 years a completely new computing platform comes along," he said, taking the audience through the leaps made by the industry. Zuckerberg added that software and apps had to be reprogrammed and rethought when computing moved from mouse-based computers to handheld and touch devices.
"I think that virtual reality and augmented reality are basically going to be the next kind of leap beyond this," he said. "People are going to need to rewrite all different kinds of apps because instead of using something on a screen you're going to be able to be immersed in a 3D world."
Zuckerberg made it clear that it would take years before these devices are both affordable and portable enough for widespread use, but he does expect it to happen.
Zuckerberg remains impatient (in a good way)
One of Facebook's newer initiatives is Instant Articles, through which publishers allow Facebook to host their content. Though the partners retain ownership and ad revenue, the stories load faster, improving user experience. This fixes something Zuckerberg described as "one of the more annoying things" about his service.
"You're browsing through, you're scrolling and you come across a story you want to read," he said. "You tap on it and it takes 10 seconds to to load. Having Facebook host the content eliminates that load time. "Faster is always better. Nobody has ever told us they want to wait longer," he added.
Being unfashionable is a choice
While Zuckerberg is famous for his casual dress, he actually has a reason for his wardrobe of gray T-shirts and hoodies.
"My philosophy on this is I don't spend a lot of time thinking about fashion and that's because there's a lot of psychological research showing that when people make decisions, it takes energy," he said. "Even a small decision like what you're going to eat for breakfast or what you're going to wear. I don't want to spend my energy on that. I want to come in and spend my time and energy working on things that are going to build better products and help connect the world."