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A few months after I joined Facebook in 2006, we shipped the 2 most important products in FB’s history: News Feed + Open Registration. A lot of smart people thought these moves would destroy FB. Instead, they transformed the company and cemented Zuck’s leadership. The backstory:
News Feed shipped first. In 2006 there were no feeds (other than RSS), NF was a novel product idea. Websites were measured on page views back then, and NF was designed to reduce PVs by eliminating the need to click around profiles. Less PVs = less ad impressions, seemed crazy.
Mark described FB as a utility, and NF was central to his vision. It showed info you could already see on people’s profiles, but organized efficiently on the home page. And stories would be ranked based on what people found most interesting. This was a massive change.
Many users were disoriented to see their personal info organized this way. Within 24 hours after launch, 10% of our entire user base joined a group calling for NF to be rolled back (ironically this group had gone viral via NF). People protested outside our office, I was nervous.
Mark was calm and collected, and his conviction never wavered. He listened and made changes in response to feedback from the community. But he also looked at the data, which contrasted sharply with the protests: people were more engaged than ever before.
Within a week users had embraced NF, and we turned our attention to Open Registration. At the time, only college students could register for a FB account. 8k new people were signing up each day, while another 30k were rejected for not having a college email. That blew me away.
Some of the smartest people in Silicon Valley thought Open Reg would kill the company. We had created a modern day MTV (Viacom even tried to acquire us), and allowing old people would spoil the party. But Mark believed more users would make FB more useful to everyone.
After Open Reg, sign-ups spiked as all those people who had been rejected were now allowed in and invited their friends. Engagement also increased as more people generated more content. Daily reg doubled and then doubled again. A year later we had grown from <10M users to >50M.
News Feed + Open Reg transformed FB. Inside of a few weeks, we had redefined the product and Mark proved his mettle as a leader. I had recently moved my family from Seattle and bet my career on a 22 year-old founder. After this experience, I knew I made the right decision.
PS - 2 months before I joined FB, Mark had rejected Yahoo’s $1B acquisition offer. Everyone told him to take the deal, but he believed News Feed + Open Reg (and later FB Platform) could transform the value of the company. 18 months later, FB was valued at $15B.
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