What makes him powerful: "We talk about social networks in the plural, but I don't see anybody other than Facebook out there. Just Facebook. They are dominating this," the late Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs told his official biographer Walter Isaacson. "I admire Mark Zuckerberg... for not selling out, for wanting to make a company. I admire that a lot."
The company Zuckerberg is making continues to expand further and deeper into mobile communications as its users migrate from the desktop to the handset--in fact, Facebook head of mobile products Erick Tseng recently stated "Within another year or two, we'll be a mobile company, with one-half mobile users." More than 350 million consumers worldwide are now actively using Facebook's mobile products across all platforms, and in September, research firm Nielsen reported Facebook is the most popular mobile application across all operating systems. Facebook also boasts a unique mobile web audience surpassing 46 million.
Facebook extended its dominance over the mobile social networking segment by releasing a flurry of new mobile services over the course of 2011. Facebook also acquired a series of mobile startups including group messaging services firm Beluga, mobile app platform provider Snaptu and mobile ad solutions developer Rel8tion.
But Zuckerberg's mobile ambitions go far beyond conventional apps and services--he's building a full-fledged mobile ecosystem. In October Facebook expanded its Facebook Platform APIs and developer tools to Apple's iOS and the mobile web, its first step towards creating next-level mobile interactions that galvanize discovery and distribution. New Facebook social channels coming to mobile include Bookmarks (simplifying access to applications), Requests (enabling users to invite their friends to an app), News Feed (which allows users to share highlights from apps) and Authenticated Referrals (ensuring that all referral traffic to an app connects users to Facebook). Most notably, Facebook Platform extends the social network's Credits virtual currency to mobile web apps, allowing developers to offer premium virtual and digital goods. "We are at the beginning of bringing Facebook Platform apps to mobile," engineer Luke Shepard wrote on the Facebook Developer Blog. "[These features] will evolve as we learn more about building richer social experiences on mobile devices."
Can anything derail Facebook's growth? The fledgling Google+ (NASDAQ:GOOG), which launched in late June, gives users the flexibility to selectively share materials with friends and family sorted into "circles"--less than six months later, Google+ already touts more than 40 million users. Even so, that's still a fraction of Facebook's 800 million-plus worldwide userbase. Social networks come and social networks go, of course (remember Friendster or MySpace?), but Zuckerberg's brainchild looks too powerful, too entrenched--and for most users, too addictive--to simply fade away. --Jason