Facebook Just Tapped the Next Mark Zuckerberg


Earlier this week, Facebook announced a grand reshuffle of its leadership. First reported by Recode, the new structure includes teams for the company’s apps, new platforms and infrastructure, and central product services. Most of the people moving into new roles have been with the company for close to a decade or longer, and many have proven themselves adept at the skill Facebook appears to value over all others: growth.

Chris Cox Is the New Mark Zuckerberg

If there were ever a question as to who would step in to fill Zuckerberg’s shoes should something happen to him, it has been resolved. With his new role as head of the company’s family of apps—Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and the tried and true Big Blue (aka Facebook)—Facebook’s chief product officer is stepping out as the leader he has long been internally. Anyone paying close attention knows this already.

Cox, who is very close friends with Zuckerberg, dropped out of a Stanford graduate program to join Facebook in 2005. He’s done a lot of jobs since. When I first met him in 2008, he was the 25-year-old head of resources who zipped around the office on a ripstik. An engineer by training, he helped invent news feed and was the star of the video Facebook showed investors in the run-up to its initial public offering. Cox is a brilliant public face for the company because he pairs engineering rigor and Facebook history with an emotive voice that Zuckerberg sometimes lacks. (Check out his F8 keynote from 2011 to see this in action.)

Cox’s new role also suggests Facebook will integrate Instagram and WhatsApp more deeply into the company, now that they’re organizationally closer to Messenger and Facebook. This may have contributed to WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum’s departure last month.

Javier Olivan Just Got a Lot More Important

Of Zuckerberg’s three direct reports on the product side of the business, Olivan is the only one not currently on Facebook’s leadership page. The Spanish native arrived at Facebook after finishing his Stanford MBA in 2007 to run international growth, when the company had just 40 million users, most in the United States. The growth team is Facebook’s Navy SEALs, a special-operations force brought in when the company sees potential for a feature to take off and the stakes are high. Historically, most teams at Facebook have included one of Olivan’s direct reports.

Olivan’s responsibilities now include ad products, analytics, and a group called “integrity, growth, and product management.” One could also read this as one way Zuckerberg is demoting ad products. Mark Rabkin, who is in charge, now reports to Olivan.

Controversy Won’t Stop WhatsApp’s New Boss

Unlike its Instagram acquisition, Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp was never a great culture fit. Koum promised to keep WhatsApp ad-free, then sold it to an ad company. In March, cofounder Brian Acton, who’d already left Facebook to start a foundation, advised his 35,000 Twitter followers to #Deletefacebook. Then last month, Koum announced he was leaving his post as WhatsApp’s CEO and stepping off Facebook’s board.

Now Chris Daniels, a seven-year Facebook veteran, steps in to replace Koum, eschewing the title as CEO of WhatsApp for a vice president title. It will be on Daniels, who will report to Cox, to sort out a business for the messaging service. He’s got the experience to take on the challenge. Until recently, Daniels ran Facebook’s internet.org initiatives around expanding access in developing countries. The largest of these projects is Free Basics, an app that offers access to free web services. Although telecom companies rejected the idea of partnering with Facebook to provide the Free Basics app early on—and India banned it in 2016—more than 80 carriers partner with Facebook to offer the service.

Facebook Probably Has a Blockchain Plan

David Marcus, who ran Facebook’s Messenger app, will now lead a team of fewer than a dozen people dedicated to blockchain technology. Kevin Weil, who was in charge of product at Instagram, is joining him along with James Everingham, who was in charge of engineering there. (WIRED’s Erin Griffith and Sandra Upson have some thoughts on what this means.)

A board member of cryptocurrency wallet Coinbase with a lot of payments experience, Marcus has a history of leaving large posts to take up seemingly small projects. He was CEO of PayPal in 2014 when he left to run Messenger. The move was a head-scratcher: At the time, Messenger was a tiny messaging app that had failed to take off as an email replacement. But Zuckerberg had a plan to transform Messenger into a better version of WhatsApp (which, it should be said, he’d just bought), one that businesses could harness to reach users in new ways.

Messenger’s Chief is a Growth Expert

Replacing Marcus at Messenger is Stan Chudnovsky. He’s one of the newer members of the leadership bench, having arrived at Facebook in 2014. Like Marcus, Chudnovsky is a serial entrepreneur; he sold his last company, the software startup IronPearl, to PayPal before it was a year old. Chudnovsky’s nascent startup had been building growth tools for companies, and at PayPal he was head of growth. At Messenger, Chudnovsky worked closely with Marcus to grow Messenger into a service with more than 1.3 billion monthly active users.

There Are Almost No Women Here

A shamefully obvious aspect of the image of the org chart that Recode pieced together earlier this week is the paucity of female faces. In fact, there’s only one: Naomi Gleit, who now runs “integrity, growth and product management.” Gleit, who is Facebook’s longest tenured employee (she was #29), has long been part of the growth team at Facebook and was until recently the company’s “vice president of social good.” Gleit is a force to be reckoned with, no doubt. But this new structure raises questions about Zuckerberg’s commitment to building an inclusive workforce. For as much as the company has benefitted from the work its chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, has done personally to promote women, it should be unacceptable for Zuckerberg to fill 13 of the company’s 14 most critical technical positions with men.

A New Face(book)

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