Mark Zuckerberg, I’m sure you’re aware, has been spotted in China. Whenever this happens — and it has happened before — it sparks a flurry of news reports and speculation. I’m not going to link to any specific piece because I’m not trying to call anyone out in particular, but you can easily find dozens of stories on Mr. Zuckerberg’s current trip with Google and ten seconds if you haven’t seen the coverage already. This is where tech news meets celebrity gossip and I’m going to be honest: I hate it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Zuckerberg is an important guy in tech, and his traveling to China could be an important story. Last time he came, it really was; he met with reps from several major Chinese internet companies and seemed to be feeling things out for a potential Facebook launch here. This trip, though, the closest he’s come to doing any Facebook business (as far as we know) is buying a smart cover for his iPad at the Shanghai Apple Store. Riveting.
So why are we — the collective tech media that covers Asia — covering it? Why are we posting these stalkerish photos of the man and his girlfriend walking around Shanghai and Beijing? I understand how appealing “Facebook might launch in China” is as a story, but is there any evidence that Zuckerberg’s trip has anything to do with that? Any at all? His presence alone isn’t evidence of anything, as much as we might want it to be. And maybe I’m missing something, but the most compelling evidence I’ve seen so far that he might be doing business in China is one photo in which he appears to not be with his girlfriend. Not exactly a smoking gun.
If there’s evidence that Zuckerberg is working on some Facebook business in China, the tech media should certainly cover it. That would be big news. But it hasn’t happened yet. And although I’m no Facebook or Zuckerberg fan, it makes me feel weird when some of my favorite tech news sources are suddenly full of paparazzi photos of a man who, by all appearances, seems to be trying to enjoy a vacation.
So Mark Zuckerberg is in China. If there are signs he’s trying to figure out a way to launch Facebook here, I want to know about it. But I’m not sure I need — or even want — to know where and when he bought an iPad cover. Maybe I’m off base here, but that doesn’t seem like news to me.