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Facebook's New Master Plan: Kill Other Apps

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Mark Zuckerberg has offered a glimpse at Facebook's master plan. He did this at F8, the company's conference in San Francisco. Here's NPR's Aarti Shahani.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: The 31-year-old CEO gave a rousing speech with a glaring omission. But before we get to that, the highlights.


MARK ZUCKERBERG: We stand for connecting every person.

SHAHANI: Mark Zuckerberg on stage in a T-shirt.


ZUCKERBERG: For a global community, for bringing people together, for giving all people a voice, for free flow of ideas and culture across nations.

SHAHANI: And he followed that vision with a game plan. In Facebook's products Messenger and What'sApp, people are sending about 60 billion messages a day. That's three times more than regular text ever got. Zuckerberg laid out how, over the next decade, Facebook will build a suite of products, each with a projected billion or more users, that together serves one goal.


ZUCKERBERG: Give everyone in the world the power to share anything they want with anyone.

SHAHANI: That's a mouthful, but they aren't empty words. For example, he unveiled a new Messenger platform so that now, inside the privacy of that blue dot, you can stream a personalized CNN feed or get automated chat bots to help you cater a dinner or order flowers. Zuckerberg cracked a joke about that.


ZUCKERBERG: I find it pretty ironic because now to order from 1-800-Flowers, you never have to call 1-800-Flowers again.

SHAHANI: If successful, Facebook could end up making many competitors, news apps, online shopping sites, music streaming services, even Google search page, irrelevant - or at least less relevant. Much like Amazon became the everything store, Facebook could become the anything app. Video is key.


ZUCKERBERG: We're also at the beginning of a golden age of online video.

SHAHANI: The company says people watch 3.4 hours of online video a day on average. Facebook recently opened up live video to everyone. Zuckerberg says he was watching a live video of a random mom skiing with her kids.


ZUCKERBERG: And it was just mesmerizing. I watched it for, like, a few minutes because I was just, I'm like, I really want to make sure these kids get down this hill.

SHAHANI: As the CEO painted this detailed picture of his company, poised to empower everyone to share anything with anyone, the glaring omission was public safety, the risks that are arising the world over when Facebook connects people.

ZEYNEP TUFEKCI: Bringing people together sounds great. But when people come together, they don't just do good things.

SHAHANI: Zeynep Tufekci is a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She says Facebook has not paid nearly enough attention to the ugly things that happen when people come together. In Burma, the Buddhist majority has used Facebook to share calls for the killing of minority Muslims. Militants use the site as a weapons bazaar, even though Facebook has banned gun sales. Tufekci says Facebook isn't at fault for human dynamics, just for being naive.

TUFEKCI: I'm just a little surprised - you know, this company is now more than a decade old - that we're still hearing these really vague, mushy values statements that don't take into account how Facebook actually operates as a dynamic - because it's a potent dynamic.

SHAHANI: Facebook declines to comment on these public safety concerns. Aarti Shahani, NPR News, San Francisco.

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