Mark Zuckerberg is unfriending the idea of running for president of the United States, at least for now.
Today, Facebook's CEO wrote to BuzzFeed News explaining that he has no plans to run for political office. The response comes after BuzzFeed asked about his presidential ambitions amid speculation Zuckerberg has been setting the stage for a potential White House bid in 2020.
Speculation about the internet's "Parent-in-Chief" started a few weeks ago, when Bloomberg News reported that Zuckerberg wanted to find a way to serve in government while maintaining control of Facebook. There have also been other reports, such as one from Vanity Fair tech writer Nick Bilton, who, citing Silicon Valley insiders, wrote that whether Zuckerberg will be the next president is "a serious question." However, Zuckerberg himself seems to want to keep his head down at the social network and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a philanthropic organization he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, co-founded.
"'No,'" Zuckerberg told BuzzFeed. "'I'm focused on building our community at Facebook and working on the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.'"
Of course, what he's focused on now doesn't necessarily rule out anything he might be focused on in the future. (After all, times change, people change, social networks change.) But Zuckerberg's certainly been acting more presidential lately, making plans to visit "small towns and universities" to meet with everyday Americans, for instance. On Christmas Day, the CEO announced he now views religion as "very important" after growing up Jewish and identifying as an atheist for years. (He also already has a team that helps maintain his online persona, a key piece of any political campaign.)
However, Zuckerberg focusing on Facebook is probably good news for Facebook. If he ever were to run, it could have potentially major implications for Facebook and its own various initiatives. Zuckerberg, who has over the past decade gained a reputation for being a visionary, business man and engineering genius, has grown the social network far and wide, beyond the college networking website it once was. He's also taken on international initiatives, such as providing internet via drones in Africa. And like Apple without Steve Jobs, Facebook without Zuck could be a very different company.
Zuckerberg also has another key advantage should he ever run: access to a massive trove of data about more than a billion people around the world. That should help a little with political ad targeting. But whether the public and political press would deem his usage of user data as appropriate would certainly be up for debate.
All that territory would be entirely unprecedented—not to mention unpresidented.