- FacebookCEO Mark Zuckerberg has outlined four priorities for 2019.
- The goals are designed to get the company out of the defensive crouch that has defined the past two years amid a string of scandals.
- Zuckerberg emphasised that the company would redouble its efforts on “building new experiences.”
After a two-year apology tour, Facebook is changing strategy: It’s going to go all out building stuff again.
On Wednesday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told analysts on a conference call after the company’s fourth-quarter 2018 earnings announcement that the Silicon Valley tech giant believed it had made significant progress tackling its myriad woes and that throughout 2019 one of the company’s key areas of focus would be to launch significant new features and products for its apps.
“I’m not talking about the many day-to-day iterative improvements we make so that ranking gets a bit better or things get somewhat faster, but major improvements to people’s lives that whole communities recognise and say ‘wow, we’re all doing something new on Facebook or WhatsApp that we weren’t doing before,'” Zuckerberg said in remarks also shared to his public Facebook page.
It’s a significant step for Facebook, which has been on the back foot almost constantly since the 2016 US presidential elections, as its historically rosy image was tarnished by a string of scandals over everything from misuse of users’ data and hacking to the social network’s role in spreading hate speech that fuelled genocide in Myanmar and Russia’s sowing of propaganda on the platform.
The new focus on product updates is also most likely a necessity for keeping the company’s increasingly unhappy workforce on board. Employees have been bombarded by a barrage of negative headlines, while the company’s faltering stock price has put a dent in their compensation packages. (“Employee morale is dead,” a Facebook employee recently told Business Insider. “It’s like an open secret,” the person said, adding: “Everyone has to pretend like they’re all happy-go-lucky, but most people aren’t, which is kinda crazy.”)
As such, Zuckerberg’s change of tack will allow rank-and-file employees, especially newer ones, to feel invested in new initiatives – rather than constantly playing defence and cleaning up other people’s messes.
Zuckerberg conceded this, saying: “The reality is we’ve put most of our energy into security over the past 18 months so that building new experiences wasn’t the priority over that period.”
Particular points of focus when it comes to building new experience will be around messaging, groups and communities, “commerce and shopping” on Instagram, and Facebook’s video service, Watch, the 34-year-old billionaire chief exec said.
Zuck’s 4 Facebook priorities for 2019
The plan is one of four key priorities Facebook’s leadership has set for 2019. These are (in Zuckerberg’s words):
- “First, continue making progress on the major social issues facing the internet and our company.”
- “Second, build new experiences that meaningfully improve people’s lives today and set the stage for even bigger improvements in the future.”
- “Third, keep building our business by supporting the millions of businesses – mostly small businesses – that rely on our services to grow and create jobs.”
- “And fourth, communicate more transparently about what we’re doing and the role our services play in the world.”
Facebook’s attempts to refresh its image have had false starts before. The New York Times previously reported that in early 2018, the company had an internal comms campaign that was “meant to assure employees that the company was committed to getting back on track in 2018” – but it was ditched in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
And 2019 is already shaping up to pose some challenges for Facebook.
Less than a day before Facebook announced its fourth-quarter earnings, TechCrunch reported that Facebook was paying users on iOS to let it track their phone use with an intrusive data-collecting app – and Apple responded by revoking the company’s developer certificate, effectively blocking Facebook employees from using internal apps to do their jobs and causing chaos for the company.
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