PROVO -- In college, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was sure that one day someone would create a social networking site that would allow people from all over the world to connect with each other.
He just never thought it would be him.
"Any normal person I don't think would want to build a company," the 26-year-old multibillionaire told thousands of Brigham Young University students on Friday morning.
Zuckerberg and U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, spoke at a technology forum at the Marriott Center, answering questions submitted via BYU's Facebook page. Zuckerberg wore jeans and a hoodie; Hatch was in a suit. Much of what Zuckerberg said drew applause from the crowd; Hatch got claps and whistles when he suggested the best way government could encourage innovation was to leave people alone.
"I want Mark to know that the reason I invited him here today was to get you to finally accept me as a friend," Hatch said amid laughter.
Zuckerberg started Facebook as a sophomore at Harvard, intending the simple website to be a place that Harvard students could connect. Within two weeks, he said, two-thirds of Harvard students had signed up, and emails from other schools in the area were coming in asking to be a part of Facebook.
The rest is history.
"I did this not because I was trying to build a company," he said. "As a matter of fact, I was quite certain that we weren't going to build a company."
His company, like most successful businesses, is successful because of the people, Zuckerberg said. He acknowledged being the public face but said Facebook has grown to encompass more than half a billion users worldwide because of a couple of thousand energetic, passionate employees. Those employees have created a system that allows users throughout the world to generate their own applications to make Facebook what they want it to be.
With a culture that invites these types of employees, a company can succeed no matter how crowded the industry is, he said.
That culture focuses just as much on the people side of things as the technology side of things, Zuckerberg said. The system was created so a developer, such as FamilyLink in Provo, can create the Facebook app they want. The goal for Facebook employees isn't to develop every possible app, he said; they believe apps are better when they are created by a focused developer instead of a corporate team.
However, Facebook is just as much about his other college major, psychology, as it is about computers.
"The thing that I think is really important about psychology is that all of these problems, at the end of the day, are human problems," he said. "The things that people are most interested in are what's going on with people they care about."
Hence, the beauty of Facebook is that it can be what each individual user wants it to be -- a method of communication, a way to share pictures, a gaming system, a social calendar, a passive way of finding out what people are doing.
He didn't just talk about Facebook, however. He queried Hatch, who is the head of the Senate Republican high-tech task force, on how government could be helping the people in dorm rooms today working on the next great idea.
"Well, I think the best thing government can do is keep out of the way," Hatch responded.
Zuckerberg talked about the role of technology in education, politics and society in general. It has opened up many different options, as many can find how-tos online or can make their own educational videos or websites. It has allowed classrooms, teachers and students from throughout the world to connect and allows them to see what other people are doing that is working, allowing for more creativity in teaching.
The Internet itself is also just a way for people to connect. That's the business Facebook is in; there actually is an app, peace.facebook.com, that shows the friendships between people in countries that have tense relationships.
"I do think in a way the Internet just gives everyone a voice," he said.
The final question dealt with the almost-grads who may be salivating for a job at Facebook. Be passionate, Zuckerberg said -- about anything. It doesn't have to be gaming or technology, but everyone should have a passion. They're not looking for people who think Facebook is perfect, they want people who think it is so far from where it should be that they want to get in there and fix it.
"I think the reality is, people don't get put into roles," he said. "They create them for themselves."