There’s a long-running theory that Mark Zuckerberg wants to be the President.
It seems weirdly logical. He’s a billionaire founder of Facebook, arguably the world’s most powerful company — ever. Becoming the President of the United States may be the only promotion Zuckerberg could get.
Facebook is the perfect platform to launch a political campaign from — especially when you own the platform. No one is forcing Facebook upon their friends but now it’s almost impossible not to signup.
That means that Facebook knows what matters to you, where you live — and let’s get real — they probably know how you vote.
Given their power over what users see, Facebook could, if it chose, be the most potent political force in the world. Until, of course, said meddling was uncovered, at which point the service, having so significantly betrayed trust, would lose a substantial number of users and thus its lucrative and privileged place in advertising, leading to a plunge in market value. In short, there are no incentives for Facebook to explicitly favor any type of content beyond that which drives deeper engagement; all evidence suggests that is exactly what the service does.
Look at Zuckerberg’s 2017 goal — meet people in all 50 states by the end of the year, that sounds like someone who wants to run for office. But I don’t think he is. I think Zuckerberg’s ambitions go far beyond Leader of the Free World.
Zuckerberg’s Building Global Community post gives some insight into what he thinks is important and more importantly what is coming next.
History is the story of how we’ve learned to come together in ever greater numbers — from tribes to cities to nations. At each step, we built social infrastructure like communities, media and governments to empower us to achieve things we couldn’t on our own.
If you look at Facebook as a nation state, it’s the largest country in the world. Zuckerberg doesn’t need to run for office, he’s got his own nation to run.
Facebook is building the next step in social infrastructure beyond communities, media and governments. The recent F8 conference is a clear example that this is where Facebook is heading.
Facebook’s primary means of differentiation has remain consistent ever since its birth at Harvard — your friends are on the service. And once they were up and running, it was difficult to copy.
Consider a new social network: for any social network, the benefit comes from having friends (or people you want to interact with) on the service. The problem for most new networks is they’re already on Facebook, so why bother joining a new social network?
And it’s not like Facebook hasn’t been fighting to keep its users on its platform. Whether that be acquisitions (think Instagram) or copying others (I’m looking at you Snapchat).
The clearest example that comes to mind is the introduction of everything Snapchat (stories, ephemeral messaging) to Facebook’s platforms. And it seems to be working, at least if the number of users using Instagram stories is anything to go off.
Eight months after Instagram launched Stories for semi-permanent collections of photos and videos, the product has passed 200 million daily users.
200 million daily users is around 1/3 of the total number of users on Instagram and about 42 million more daily active users than Snapchat. That’s bananas. That’s impressive growth even by Facebook’s standards. But why is Facebook copying Snapchat? I think it goes beyond just pure user retention.
The answer was announced in this years F8 conference, Facebook is moving beyond just copying Snapchat filters and into the world of augmented reality.
Zuckerberg imagines AR experiences breaking down into three major categories: augmenting objects in the physical world with additional information like putting directions atop the street or a restaurant’s reviews on their storefront, layering new virtual objects onto reality like a chess board or working television and enhancing objects that are already there with extra effects, like giving you a glitter beard or adding a castle turret to your apartment building.
Funnily enough, Snapchat pushed further into augmented reality as well. By introducing of world lenses — basically instead of augmenting your face, it augments the world around you.
That’s the next step in social infrastructure.
Think about it, it makes sense for Facebook. If Zuckerberg wants to be part of the social infrastructure, what better way than make it easier to see what society is thinking about by augmenting the physical world.
You won’t just turn to Facebook to talk to your friends. You’ll walk past a restaurant and you’ll see what your friend thinks about it, you’ll get directed to your friends house by Facebook. They’ll be the plumbing of the society.
It sounds insane now but so did staring at a phone all day. If you looked back 20 years and asked people if they would walk around without ever looking up, you’d be laughed at. Now, we call that an iPhone.
We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. — Bill Gates
I don’t think Zuckerberg wants to be President. I think he wants to be the Leader of the Virtual World and augmenting reality is the first step.