Why Mark Zuckerberg Runs 10,000 Facebook Versions a Day
Editor’s Note: In the new podcast Masters of Scale, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman explores his philosophy on how to scale a business -- and at Entrepreneur.com, entrepreneurs are responding with their own ideas and experiences in our hub. This week, we’re discussing Hoffman’s theory: if you're not embarrassed by your first product release, you released it too late.
“Move fast and break things” are words Mark Zuckerberg has lived by for years. Before launching the biggest social media network on the planet, the New York native launched ZuckNet, a network to help his family communicate when he was a tween.
“My dad was a dentist, and growing up, one of the neat things was that his dental office was actually connected to our home. And the dentists and hygienists needed to share data on the patients,” he shares with Reid Hoffman, the host of podcast Masters of Scale, a 10-episode series in which the LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock partner chats with big-name leaders about unconventional theories pertaining to scaling businesses. “So I built a system where he could communicate with folks across rooms, and can also can communicate with me and my sisters upstairs—and I called it ZuckNet, because it was basically our little network, inside the Zuckerberg home, and it was fun. Basically, that was the predecessor to probably a bunch of different social software ideas that I explored over time.”
Later, in college, he created a crowdsourced platform for his art history class, along with a program to help students figure out classes they should take. All were launched haphazardly, imperfectly and quickly – an approach that allowed Zuckerberg to get user feedback, iterate and create a product people could use.
“I think that there's really something to the strategy of just learn, and go as quickly as you can,” he tells Hoffman. “Even if not every single release is perfect, I think you're going to end up doing better over a year or two than you would be if you just waited to get feedback for a year of all your ideas.”
And at Facebook, this is what they do every single day, says Zuckerberg.
At any given point in time, there isn't just one version of Facebook running, there are probably 10,000. Any engineer at the company can basically decide that they want to test something. There are some rules on sensitive things, but in general, an engineer can test something, and they can launch a version of Facebook not to the whole community, but maybe to 10,000 people or 50,000 people—whatever is necessary to get a good test of an experience," he shares in the podcast. "And then, they get a readout of how that affected all of the different metrics, and things that we care about. How were people connecting? How were people sharing? Do people have more friends in this version? Of course, business metrics, like how does this cost the efficiency of running the service, how much revenue are we making?"
By doing so, Zuckerberg creates a constant feedback loop, allowing Facebook to test their assumptions.
“Giving people the tools to be able to go get that data, without having to argue whether their idea’s good through layers of management before testing something, frees people up to move quicker," he says in the podcast. "If the thing doesn't work, then we add that to our documentation of all the lessons that we've learned over time. If it does work, then we can incorporate those small changes into the base of what Facebook is—that now everyone else who is trying to build an improvement, that's the new baseline that they need to get against.”
This approach, the one Zuckerberg is famous for -- “move fast and break things” -- also has helped the social media platform scale quickly, in more than just the above example. And according to Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Greylock partner, this approach is the right one for entrepreneurs.
“If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released it too late,” Hoffman says on Masters of Scale. “The way for most entrepreneurs to create a great product is through a tight feedback loop with real customers using a real product.”