Just final spring, Chris Cox, the chief product officer of Facebook, was promoted to additionally oversee WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. It appeared on the time virtually like succession planning. If Mark Zuckerberg had been to ever go away the corporate, Cox, his longtime confidante and a representative of the engineering and product facet, could be set as much as run it.
But Cox introduced immediately that, after 13 years on the firm, he’s leaving. “For over a decade, I’ve been sharing the same message that Mark and I have always believed: Social media’s history is not yet written, and its effects are not neutral. It is tied up in the richness and complexity of social life. As its builders, we must endeavor to understand its impact—all the good, and all the bad—and take up the daily work of bending it towards the positive, and towards the good. This is our greatest responsibility,” he wrote.
Cox has been a beloved worker on the firm, main orientations for brand spanking new hires and serving to set the corporate’s product technique in all methods. He was a relaxed presence in a chaotic place, and insiders jokingly referred to him as “the Ryan Gosling of Facebook Product.” He was one of many first 15 engineers on the firm—again when it was nonetheless known as “The Facebook”—and he helped design the early variations of NewsFeed, Facebook’s most vital product. He managed human relations early on, which was seemingly good coaching for his later job of managing relations with a restive information business. Last yr he sat for an extended interview with WIRED and defined the complexities of how the corporate polices pretend information and hate speech, one among Facebook’s prime priorities for 2018.
It appeared, for years, that Cox and Zuckerberg noticed eye to eye on practically every little thing. But there’s a suggestion in Cox’s assertion that, maybe, a significant current determination drove them aside, and an worker on the firm able to know confirmed, in a dialog with WIRED, that that’s certainly a significant purpose why Cox is leaving. After all, most of the tasks he labored on—countering filter bubbles, pretend information, and hate speech—change into a lot tougher when all the information is encrypted. Cox didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg printed a manifesto about privateness that supplied up a brand new route for the corporate, one primarily based on encrypted messaging and the interoperability of the entire messaging platforms that Cox oversees. And in Cox’s assertion there’s a trace that that may have impressed immediately’s announcement. “As Mark has outlined, we are turning a new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network. It’s a product vision attuned to the subject matter of today: a modern communications platform that balances expression, safety, security, and privacy. This will be a big project, and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.”
That definitely seems like Cox is saying he isn’t fully excited to see this mission via.
Zuckerberg, too, might have hinted at this in an interview with WIRED final week. When requested about shifting focus at an organization as large as Facebook, Zuckerberg responded, “There’s a lot of work that goes into getting the teams aligned and getting the right leaders in place who believe in these priorities, and being able to execute on that.”
After unifying all of Facebook’s merchandise beneath Cox a yr in the past, Facebook mentioned it could now cut up them aside beneath separate leaders, just like how they’d been arrange earlier than. In a be aware printed on Facebook’s Newsroom weblog, Zuckerberg mentioned that Chris Daniels, who’s been operating WhatsApp because the reorganization a yr in the past, and earlier than that had run Facebook’s Internet.org for 5 years, can be leaving Faceguide. Will Cathcart, who had been accountable for the Facebook app, will now run WhatsApp. Fidji Simo, who had been operating the Facebook app whereas Cathcart was out on paternity go away, will tackle that job full-time. Adam Mosseri will proceed to run Instagram. And Stan Chudnovsky will proceed to run Messenger. Zuckerberg mentioned he wouldn’t fill Cox’s job and indicated that these division heads would report on to him. At 7 pm ET immediately, Zuckerberg and Cox could have a Q&A with the corporate by which they’ll certainly talk about the adjustments.
Many observers weren’t certain what to make of Zuckerberg’s announcement about privateness final week. How a lot of it was a normal philosophical shift, and the way a lot was only a new enterprise technique? With Cox’s resignation, one factor is completely clear: Zuckerberg’s pivot is now formally a really large deal.