60 Minutes’s Lesley Stahl aired her second major interview with Mark Zuckerberg last night, ostensibly to mark the occasion of Facebook’s profile redesign, debuting today. According to Stahl, the latest re-haul will tweak your wall to highlight the kind of details you’d learn about someone if you met them “in a bar.” By most accounts, her interview was a public-relations coup. PaidContent said “Zuckerberg essentially reduced the venerable newsmagazine to an unwitting shill” for the site’s “utterly meaningless” redesign. Forbes pointed out that the Winklevoss twins, complaining again about their $65 million settlement, came across as “petulant” and “unseemly.” But the cosmetic redesign and rehashed debates about The Social Network aside, the interview did herald one newsworthy debut: Meet the kinder, gentler, more genuine Mark Zuckerberg. The 26-year-old CEO came across as jovial and confident, with a perpetual smile and superhero-like deflection capabilities — a 180-degree change from his flop-sweat-drenched performance at the D8 conference just six months ago, when questions about privacy made him look like he was “literally dissolving in a lake of his own sweat.”
During a segment in which Zuckerberg patiently explained to Stahl how in engineering, hacking is not a bad word, Stahl switched to voice over and reminisced about her transformed subject. “As he spoke, I remembered his awkwardness from three years ago and how he rarely blinks. But he’s far more relaxed now, easier to smile and noticeably more confident. The voice-over-flashback (“diddly-doot, diddly-doot, diddily-doot“) was used more than once.
In fact, it was during Stahl’s first interview with Zuckerberg back in 2007 that AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher, who also featured prominently last night, dubbed Zuckerberg the “toddler CEO.” Based on his leadership over the past three years, Swisher told Stahl, “The toddler’s a prodigy as it’s turned out.” That’s a very different sound bite than the ones that emerged from the last Zuckerberg inquisition. Back then, when Stahl compared the Facebook CEO to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Zuckerberg condescendingly shot back the line, repeated in The Social Network, “Is that a question?”
It’s not that Stahl didn’t try to get something out of the tech wunderkind. She questioned him about his bidding war for talent with Google, his reaction to The Social Network, and the public perception that he’s out to steal our data. But the hard-ball questions were obvious — “Is the goal for you to own the whole Internet? — that you could almost picture them hitting Zuckerberg’s deflection shields and bouncing to the ground. It’s hard to say whether Zuckerberg 2.0 is all a product of superb PR lessons (really, his blinking coach should take a bow) or whether, as people are wont to do between the ages of 19 and 26, he’s just growing up. Zuckerberg’s response to whether the public deserves to know more about him—you know, since he’s the dude we entrust with our photos, relationships, and messages—however, seemed insincere. For proof of how tight-lipped he is about his own personal life, see The New Yorker’s profile, which barely managed to crack a dent in the (real-life) wall.
As for the redesign, there are some noteworthy changes afoot. Instead of a single profile picture, people who visit your page will see a row of photos you’ve recently been tagged in. So much for picking the perfect profile picture — now you’ll have to worry about fat arms and a double chin in the latest five photos you’ve been tagged in. Speaking of making your page look more like what you’d learn from someone “in a bar,” the lateral spread seems to borrow a feature from the dating site OkCupid, which lets users hover over the main pic to see a spread of uploaded photos to determine whether someone’s, uh, date-worthy. The other potentially fraught aspect of the redesign lets you pick out “featured friends” to display your favorites on the left-hand side of your wall. So Facebook denizens, start your persona-curating engines and get ready to rank the ones you love.
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook: What’s Next? [60 Minutes/CBS]
How Mark Zuckerberg Fooled ‘60 Minutes’ [PaidContent]
Mark Zuckerberg’s 60 Minutes Interview: Best Piece of Facebook PR Yet [Forbes]