Complex Tech was in San Francisco for TechCrunch’s Disrupt SF Conference. Check in here for more recaps of the event.
After Disrupt SF moderator Michael Arrington got Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to autograph a page from her profile in the September issue of Vogue, he got straight to the recent news of note, Yahoo's logo, and dived into it rather bluntly: "What the fuck happened to that?”
Mayer looked down and smiled as laughs and applause broke out from the hundreds in attendence at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco on Wednesday for the final day of Disrupt SF 2013. Still, Mayer played it cool and rolled along, "I like the way the logo turned out, and I liked the way we did it," she said, while the chirping of cameras distractingly began to rise as a crowd of about a dozen photographers began taking pictures of the gorgeous CEO. Mayer did her best to ignore them, and went on to call Yahoo the world's "largest startup," and that by designing the new logo in-house, they saved millions from having to go to an outside agency. Yet, calling Yahoo a startup by any means probably didn't sit well with the true up-and-coming startups in the audience, especially since Mayer took the opportunity to announce that Yahoo had hit 800 million users a month—if that's a startup, that's one hell of a startup.
Arrington brought up the topic of the NSA, trying to get down to what Mayer knew about the government's involvement in trying to pull user data from the company. He alluded to a lawsuit that Yahoo is currently involved in, where the company is trying to declassify documents that would show that they fought on behalf of their users when the government came calling in 2008, even though they did end up giving away data. Mayer backed up Yahoo and said they had no choice but to hand the data over, otherwise it would have been considered "treason." And, what happens to people who commit treason? "You are incarcerated," she said, as nervous laughter popped up from the audience, some not catching on to how serious she really was.
"You don't think the best way to serve your users and shareholders is from jail?" Arrington joked, as Mayer just smiled back, leaving him in silence.
As their interview wrapped up, Arrington thanked Mayer for her honesty, adding that other CEOs had never opened up about the topic before.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage after Mayer, walking on in his famous black zipped-up hoodie. Zuckerberg had a tendency to give long-winded answers, and Arrington seemed aware of this, and would blankly stare out into the audience and smirk as Zuck’s answer seemed to have no end in sight. Also, Zuck doesn't handle being put on the spot very well, and gets flushed when he runs into an awkward question—which Arrington seemed to love throwing his way: "So, what do you think of the new Yahoo logo?" Arrington asked, to which Zuck couldn't give a straight answer to, knowing that the Yahoo CEO was watching backstage. The red came flooding into his cheeks.
But the conversation turned serious, though, when Arrington asked Zuck about the NSA. Zuck bluntly responded, "The government blew it."
"The government response was, 'Oh don't worry, we're not spying on any Americans,'" Zuck said. "Oh, wonderful: that's really helpful to companies trying to serve people around the world, and that's really going to inspire confidence in American internet companies."
The government blew it.
With rumors swirling that Twitter is getting ready to go public (they just submitted their paperwork today), Arrington ironically asked Zuck about any advice he could give Twitter, even after Zuck had a now famous rough year when he took Facebook public. "I've been very outspoken about stating pricate as long as possible," Zuck said, "but in restrospect, I was too afraid of going public. I don't think it's necessary to do that."
"Having gone through a terrible first year, it made our company stronger," he said. And it's true: just in the last year, after being criticized about not making money off of their mobile app, Facebook now has 40-percent of its revenue coming from mobile.
"We took a lot of shit because we weren't making money," he said. "Sometimes it might take the market a little while to catch up and see the results of what you are doing."