Zuckerberg unveils 10-year plan to expand Facebook empire, with political tones

Facebook announced that businesses would be able to start using their messenger platform to buy and sell products and offer customers support. Jefferson Graham reports from the F8 Developer conference in San Francisco. Chris Schodt for USA TODAY

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out a 10-year plan to connect the world that sounded as much like a political cause as a grab for potential billions in dollars.

In a sweeping address that took on sharp political tones at times, Facebook’s 31-year-old CEO detailed how Facebook aims to reach the planet’s 7 billion people — half of whom do not have Internet access. And he took very direct aim at those who would limit free trade and immigration.

“We are one global community,” he said. “Whether we are welcoming a refugee fleeing war or an immigrant seeking opportunity, coming together to fight a global disease like Ebola or to address climate change.”

The theme of the keynote was, “give everyone the power to share anything with anyone,” positioning Facebook as a unifying force for good against the current political winds of divisiveness.  Zuckerberg detailed a plan to bring people together through an ambitious strategy of unfurling technology that jumps borders and crosses cultures, a sharp rebuke to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has advocated building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and banning Muslims from entering the U.S.

“As I look around the world, I’m starting to see people and nations turning inward, against the idea of a connected world and a global community,” Zuckerberg said. “I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as ‘others.’ I hear them calling for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, for reducing trade, and in some cases even for cutting access to the internet.”

“It takes courage to choose hope over fear,” he said.

The keynote, the most politically charged Zuckerberg has ever delivered, staked him as a business leader on the world stage. Speaking to a crowd of 2,600 developers from around the world, one-third of whom used a passport to get to the conference, Zuckerberg presented his vision in three pillars:

— Artificial intelligence, which will help Facebook better sift through and understand all the photos, videos and updates people post to Facebook;

— Connectivity, the goal of making Facebook and the internet available everywhere and to everyone through lasers and drones;

— Virtual and augmented reality, which Zuckerberg says one day will bring friends together even if they are on other sides of the planet through a pair of “normal-looking” glasses that can overlay digital elements on the physical world and become “the most social platform.”

Not everyone buys into Zuckerberg’s plans for global domination. In February, India dealt a major setback to Facebook’s plans to use Free Basics service to deliver a limited version of the Internet that included Facebook, at no cost.

“Mark Zuckerberg’s vision is both benevolent and altruistic as well as entirely self interested at the same time,” said Greg Sterling, contributing editor to Search Engine Land.