After a decade of unusual stability in his leadership positions, Mark Zuckerberg announced a series of dramatic changes last May. He got two top executives to start a new Blockchain division and installed new executives on WhatsApp and the News Feed. (He also appointed someone to lead a new privacy-focused group that never heard anything again.) And for Chris Cox, the company's chief product officer and one of Zuckerberg's most trusted confidants, this move meant consolidation of power: Leaders Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger would now all announce themselves from the Facebook app.
Zuckerberg, who became known for his epic blog posts in recent months, was unusually calm about the strategic thinking behind these steps. But at some point, another strategy began to leak: the one he unveiled last week that promised to move the company to a future that is determined not by public sources, but by private, encrypted messages. And today Zuckerberg announced another dramatic change with this new strategy. Chris Cox leaves the company after more than a decade. And the directional shift seems to be a big reason. (See Ryan Mac for more reports.)
So Cox describes the reasons for his departure, as Nick Thompson and Fred Vogelstein in Wired:
"As Mark has already explained, we are applying a new page in our product direction that focuses on an encrypted, interoperable messaging network. It is a product vision that is tailored to today's theme: a modern communication platform that reconciles expression, security, protection and privacy. This will be a big project and we will need leaders who feel excited to move the new direction. "
I wrote this on a South by Southwest plane interviewing former Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos about the planned move from Facebook to private messages. (Podcast Coming Soon!) Stamos said that Zuckerberg's memo, in his opinion, was a moment of fire on the boats – a symbolic point of no return, which was to gather the company around a new existential imperative. Stamos says sugar has more data than anybody else to measure the health of the news feed and Instagram, so we should understand the Privacy Privacy Pivot as a signal that has both peaked or will soon arrive.
Looking at the road in the future, it's hard not to please Cox's decision. In a farewell post, Zuckerberg said Cox was hoping to go "a few years ago", but then came the after-effects of the 2016 elections and made that impossible. (In the worst crisis in the company's history, no top manager wants to run.) Cox oversees the development of one of the most successful tech products in history, from a growth and revenue perspective, and who can not hold him responsible be excited to try everything again?
At the same time, the move is likely to be bad for the morale. Cox has long been one of the company's most popular executives, as a longtime leader of new employee focus and vocal cheerleaders for Facebook. (The movie star also helps.) It seems good to say that social media billing has taken him by surprise (like myself and many others) – he has done far fewer interviews since 2016 than he did in the United States years ago It was a game to talk to people like me about product launches.
Cox may have been waiting more than two years to write his farewell blog, but he still leaves Facebook at an unpleasant time – as New York faces a new criminal investigation into data exchange practices and one day after the longest site failure. Sure, it's never a good time to leave a job like this – but it could almost certainly have been one better on.
Zuckerberg said today that he would not appoint a replacement for Cox as Chief Product Officer. Instead, Javier Olivan, who headed a department called "Central Product Services," will take on the task of further homogenizing Facebook's apps family, while reporting to Sugarberg itself.
Elsewhere in the company:
Chris Daniels is on WhatsApp, Daniels, who previously ran Internet.org, made few public comments in the 10 months he led WhatsApp. On the one hand, the company continued to grow, especially in its core markets such as Brazil and India; On the other hand, it triggered an almost constant series of public relations crises because it was used to disseminate misinformation and hate speech around the world. Pretty or not, Daniels turned out to be a powerful enemy in the Indian government, and I imagine Zuckerberg sees some upward movement as he cleans up the slate.
Will Cathcart take over Daniels, Cathcart is a keen, thoughtful leader who previously oversaw the news feed. To get a feel for how he thinks, look at this long, productive chat that I shared with him in 2016 about Facebook's role in journalism. My only criticism of this train is the look. The leader of WhatsApp is, among other things, a diplomat. I wonder if Zuckerberg could not be better served by someone credible in India, Brazil or any other leading WhatsApp market. That means no other White from Menlo Park.
Fidji Simo takes over the Facebook app, Simo is a dynamic spokesman, a good product mind and – still far too seldom in the top ranks of Facebook – a woman. It is not Great that she handed over the reins to Big Blue the month Zuckerberg referred to her as yesterday's news feed. But the past year has shown us that this is the top spot on the Facebook bank. Adam Mosseri, who had it until last May, is now running Instagram. Cathcart, who had it until today, now operates WhatsApp. One can therefore assume that the star of Simo continues to rise.
Two final comments: one, when the story is written by Facebook, marks March 14, 2019 as the end of the newsfeed era. Cox helped design the first iterations of the news feed and oversaw it in its most successful phase. It will not disappear overnight, and in its enormous size will show a Yahoo-like stamina. But with Cox's departure, his days as the central organizational principle of Facebook are now officially behind it.
Two, several sources have told me that Cox has a secret Twitter account and used it to find out about Facebook while he was working. Now that he is no longer in the business and has to invest millions and millions of dollars, and the rest of his career is ahead of him, I hope that the Twitter account will no longer be hidden.
Microsoft, Facebook, trust and privacy
Benedict Evans has a really good companion to Facebook, which focuses on the privacy of Facebook. He describes it as an attempt to solve the platform's most pressing issues by making part of the platform irrelevant. I agree with Evans: This is the most likely way Facebook will solve the issues it has been focusing on since 2016.
Similar to switching from Windows to Cloud and ChromeOS, this can be seen as an attempt to fix the problem instead of patching it. Russians can not become viral in your newsfeed if there is no newsfeed. "Researchers" can not scratch your data if Facebook does not have your data. You solve the problem by making it irrelevant.
And finally …
Twitter boss Jack Dorsey praises appearing on a podcast of fitness personality versus vaccines
At some point, I will write the story of Twitter as a season of Veep that never stops. One of the favorite episodes is that Twitter accidentally blocked Jack Dorsey's account. Dorsey unleashed an international incident by holding up a shield that someone had given him in India; and initiate a second international incident by going to a meditation retreat in a country where social networks contributed to the genocide
Anyway, in this episode of Twitter as-VeepDorsey did another crazy podcast and … er, the podcaster is a vaccine! I'd like to apply for a shot myself, Doctor … something that turns me off for the rest of the flight.
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions and your best recommendations for the next step by Chris Cox: firstname.lastname@example.org.