Mark Zuckerberg is no longer the king of Google+. The Facebook founder joined Google's new social network while it was in its early beta testing phase, and everybody thought it was hilarious for obvious reasons. "Zuckerberg Is On Google+ (But He Doesn't Look Happy About It)," reads a Forbes headline remarking on his grainy, unsmiling profile picture. More hilarious, though, is the fact that just six days after Google+ launched, Zuckerberg had become its most popular user with tens of thousands of followers. According to Social Statistics, a site that monitors social network activity, that number soared to over 134,000 before Zuckerberg cranked up the privacy settings on his Google+ account and effectively disappeared from the network. Here's his newly barren profile.
We're not sure whether to file this news under "ironic," "hypocritical," or "inevitable." As a public personality, Zuckerberg is mostly famous for two things: his hoodie and his disdain for Facebook users' privacy. There was the time he announced the end of privacy in 2010, and there was the now-famous interview with All Things D's Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at the D8 conference later that year. When asked about Facebook's controversial privacy practices, Zuckerberg stumbled over words and glistened with sweat so noticeably that Swisher invited Zuckerberg to shed his hoodie. (It's hot under those lights!) Zuckerberg did take off the hoodie and manage to finish the interview, but his nervous behavior became known as a "meltdown over privacy." Tech bloggers cry foul over privacy settings on new Facebook features and the U.S. Senate is investigating the company's policies.
But Zuckerberg himself maintains some privacy in his day-to-day life. A 2010 New Yorker profile described Zuckerberg this way:
Despite his goal of global openness, however, Zuckerberg remains a wary and private person. He doesn’t like to speak to the press, and he does so rarely. He also doesn’t seem to enjoy the public appearances that are increasingly requested of him. Backstage at an event at the Computer History Museum, in Silicon Valley, this summer, one of his interlocutors turned to Zuckerberg, minutes before they were to appear onstage, and said, “You don’t like doing these kinds of events very much, do you?” Zuckerberg replied with a terse “No,” then took a sip from his water bottle and looked off into the distance.
Until recently, Zuckerberg lived in a nondescript Menlo Park rental and avoided the public eye. His new multimillion dollar mansion is also modest by Silicon Valley billionaire standards. Just another house behind a wall in the Palo Alto suburbs.
So Zuckerberg's newly low-flying Google+ ways shouldn't come as a surprise. That he disappeared because of privacy settings is certainly ironic. Is he hypocritical for hiding from the public eye? Depends how you see it--Zuckerberg has always been a fan of adjustable settings. But it's certainly inevitable that Zuckerberg will continue to leave people guessing and hold his cards close--especially when Google is involved. At least he's smiling in his new profile picture.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.