Zuckerberg: Google building its 'own little version of Facebook'

The Facebook CEO also said his company's focus is on partnerships, not rivalries, during an interview with PBS's Charlie Rose

Although Google officials, from CEO Larry Page on down, are all aflutter over Google+, Mark Zuckerberg views Google's new social networking site as its "own little version of Facebook." At least that's what he told Charlie Rose in an interview that aired Monday evening on the veteran broadcast journalist's PBS show.

When Rose asked him if Facebook planned to engage in a "flat-out" platform war with Google, Apple, and Amazon.com over the next 10 years, Zuckerberg said Facebook views Apple and Amazon more as partners, while acknowledging Google is more of a rival.

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"People like to talk about war. There are a lot of ways in which the companies work together. There are real competitions in there, but I don't think this is going to be the type of situation where there's one company that wins all the stuff," he said.

"Google in some ways is more competitive and is certainly trying to build its own little version of Facebook," he added. "When I look at Amazon and Apple, I see companies that are extremely aligned with us. We have a lot of conversations with people at both companies trying to figure out ways in which we can do more together."

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who also participated in the interview, said the company has a "huge partnership strategy" which revolves around providing the social technology to many other media and technology companies. "We're focused on doing one thing incredibly well. If you look at other companies, all of these companies are doing a lot of different things but we're still, as we grow, doing exactly one thing," she said.

Google launched Google+ in late June as a major initiative designed to give Google a stronger position in the social networking market, as well as provide a tool that unifies Google products by providing them with a social sharing layer and, to an extent, a common identity for Google users.

However, Google+, which has about 40 million members, has a long road ahead to match up against Facebook, which has more than 800 million members, and dominates the social networking market globally.

When asked about an IPO for Facebook, Zuckerberg said that there is definitely a plan to take the company public, mostly to reward its employees and investors, but that no decision has been made on when that will happen.

"We just care deeply about all the employees and the investors who have been there with us," he said.

Zuckerberg also downplayed the role of Facebook and other social media tools in the Arab Spring, saying that the credit for those movements to topple long-standing authoritarian regimes should go to the people who have participated in them.

"Social media's role is maybe a bit overblown in that," he said. "If people want change, then they will find a way to get that change."

Regarding the Chinese government's block of Facebook, the company isn't actively working on a strategy to address that issue, although it recognizes that being available in China is key to Facebook's mission of connecting people worldwide.

"At some point, I think there would be some discussion around what it would take to go there, and then we'd at that point have to figure out whether we were willing to do that," he said.

Zuckerberg also categorically ruled out that Facebook will ever get into the business of developing online games, saying that doing so would mean straying from the company's focus on social networking.

"Building a great game service is really hard. Building a great music service is really hard. Building a great movie service is really hard," he said.

That's why, in his view, the best innovations come from small, independent entrepreneurial companies, and much less often from divisions within large corporations.

Zuckerberg told Rose that he was very flattered by the praise he received from Steve Jobs in the recently-published biography of the late Apple co-founder.

In that book by Walter Isaacson, Jobs is quoted as saying that he admired and respected Zuckerberg for not selling Facebook and instead opting to grow and develop the company. "I took it as this amazing compliment," Zuckerberg said.

In conversations with Jobs, Zuckerberg sought his advice about things like how to assemble an outstanding team and how to keep the company focused, he said.

Zuckerberg also argued that when it comes to online advertising that's targeted based on users' behavior, Facebook gives people more transparency and control than ad networks from the likes of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, which in his view track people in a stealthy way through silent cookies.

Facebook matches ads to different user audiences based on information the members have voluntarily entered into the system via their profiles and actions, he said.

Juan Carlos Perez covers search, social media, online advertising, e-commerce, web application development, enterprise cloud collaboration suites and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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