How do you define the energy problem? What role can companies like Facebook have in solving it?
I think the energy problem at its core is a carbon problem. Facebook so far has had a single-minded focus on efficiency of data centers and servers. The unique thing is that we’re trying to drive change across the industry, not to just do it for ourselves. We’ve open-sourced designs for our data centers and servers. A year ago, the Open Compute Project was a vision. Now it’s beginning to be a reality. There’s beginning to be some really active collaboration across the industry. We hope it’s going to continue to expand.
I’d love to see similar collaboration around improving the energy mix. We can use our position as big energy customers to work with our utility suppliers to figure out how to improve the energy mix. It’s not something we can do alone, but by collaborating with utilities and regulators and others.
This industry can also find more ways to leverage the products, services, and technology we produce to make the world more sustainable and efficient. There’s gazillions of examples already—videoconferencing instead of traveling by plane to meet with someone; e-mail instead of sending a paper letter in the mail; shopping online instead of driving to the mall.
Does Facebook have an obligation to address problems like energy and climate change?
“Obligation” is an interesting word. One of the things that brought me to Facebook as opposed to some other place is the opportunity to leverage the Facebook platform—the 850-million-plus people a month engaged with our site—to drive sustainability in the broader world. But it’s not about us building those applications and preaching to people. It’s about finding ways for organizations to build on top of our platform and see what they do. We’ve got a few ideas related to energy and sustainability, but my hope is that there are lots of people out there who will be inspired and have even better, crazier ideas.
Opower just released an app in partnership with Facebook that lets people track their home energy use. Will getting involved through Facebook really drive people to change their habits?
What Opower does is analyze your energy usage information and say, “Here’s how you’re doing compared to other folks in your zip code and here’s what you can do better.” Making that analysis and communication social means people can be compared, or compare themselves, to their friends. It’s much more personal and relevant. It encourages people to compete in a friendly way. Maybe everyone else buys the winner drinks, or he buys them drinks. Whatever works. As for how much energy this will actually help save, time will tell.
Will there be more energy apps popping up on Facebook?
We’ll be talking with people over the next few months about how they might use the Facebook platform to drive higher energy efficiency, higher recycling rates, or advance other sustainability goals. There are areas where adding a social element could potentially make a big difference—the key is going to be finding them. We’ll be reaching out, and if groups want to reach out to us, that’s great. My hope is within a year we can have a half-dozen, or, in my wildest dreams, a dozen more apps. A year goes quickly.