Feb. 4, 2014 at 7:27 AM ET
Facebook turned 10 on Tuesday and company founder Mark Zuckerberg said he knows why his creation continues to soar past competitors that have emerged over the past decade.
The company always puts people before profits, he said.
“Most companies, I think, probably would have made sure that their business was in good shape first. But we decided, you know what? We care most about building the best service we can. We're going to focus on doing that first,” Facebook's 29-year-old chief executive told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie in a television exclusive interview that aired Tuesday.
Even after Facebook took a pounding on Wall Street following an initial public offering in 2012, the company focused on improving customer experience before addressing its business model, Zuckerberg said.
“The result of that was that we improved the product, but we went through this year where our business wasn't as good as people wanted it to be," he said. "But you know, I really think that we did the right thing. This is our values. I mean, we want to always serve people first. And if I had to do it again I would make the same decisions all over again."
After its rocky start in the financial markets, Facebook stock prices more than doubled last year. But for a long stretch, critics questioned Zuckerberg's leadership and the company's vision and growth strategy.
“I've spent a lot of late nights pacing around my living room with teammates just trying to plot out what our next move can be in order to keep pushing forward on this mission,” Zuckerberg said. “But one of the big things that I've taken away from the last 10 years is, there's always a next move and you just need to keep on pushing forward and keep on doing the best thing that you can.”
Facebook, which exceeded the one billion-user mark in 2012, has turned Zuckerberg into a household name. But despite being the dominant social networking platform, the struggle to stay relevant remains constant as critics and media stories suggest that teens may be fleeing Facebook for Twitter and other mobile platforms.
New survey findings by Pew Research Center debunked that theory, however: It found 73 percent of all kids ages 12-17 are Facebook users.
"Facebook and Instagram are both really popular with teens, both in the U.S. and globally across the world," Zuckerberg said. "I think what you're starting to see is that there are all these different ways that people want to share and communicate."
Sometimes, people prefer to share privately with a single friend or a small selected group, he said. Other times, they want to make a big reveal to everyone at once.
"I think increasingly, people aren't going to get them all from just one app," he said.
Regardless, teens aren't the only audience Facebook is eyeing.
"We pay attention to every demographic in every country, so we're going to focus on building things that teens are going to like, and we're also going to focus on building things that other folks are going to like," he said.
Zuckerberg marked his company's milestone Tuesday with a post on — where else? — Facebook, noting a key reason for the platform's success: "We just cared more."
"While some doubted that connecting the world was actually important, we were building. While others doubted that this would be sustainable, you were forming lasting connections," he wrote in the post. "We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today."
Over the past 10 years, Zuckerberg has grown more comfortable living in a spotlight that became more intense as he increasingly mingled with A-list associates, graced magazine covers and became the subject of a blockbuster Hollywood flick.
Zuckerberg has also spoken out about the government's massive collection of electronic personal data, leaked to the public by Edward Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency. To Guthrie, Zuckerberg said he wished the government was transparent about why it needed the data.
"I think that the government made a lot of mistakes in terms of not being clear about what they were using information for," he said. "If you ask Americans, they want the government to protect us, so it's not that they don't want any of this stuff. But I think they also want the government to be honest and clear about what's going on. And I think that's the line that was missed here."
On other topics, Zuckerberg said:
Several years ago, Zuckerberg announced he would eventually give away more than half of his estimated $30 billion fortune to charity, as part of a similar pledge by Bill Gates, Warren Gates and other wealthy Americans. Last summer, Zuckerberg also launched Internet.org, a global organization striving to connect everyone across the world to the web.
Zuckerberg said he feels grateful that some of the closest relationships in his life today — including his wife and several of his company's co-founders — were forged back when he was a student at Harvard, before Facebook even existed.
Although he looks forward to the future and pledges "that the best is yet to come," he also feels grateful for the opportunity to serve so many people and leave an indelible mark on culture.
“When I think back on this I just think, ‘You know, I'm one of the luckiest people in the world,’” he said. “If I'd only had a fraction of the experiences I've had, and only met a few of the people I've had the opportunity to work with, I would still be one of the luckiest people in the world. I mean, that's not lost on me.”