- The key Facebook exec Chris Cox is leaving.
- It’s the biggest executive departure in years and comes amid a broader reshuffle in the leadership team at Facebook.
- Chris Daniels, the head of WhatsApp, is also out.
There’s a massive shakeup in the leadership of Facebook underway.
On Thursday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that Chris Cox – a longtime Facebook executive who most recently served as chief product officer – is leaving the company in what is the most significant departure at the embattled company in years.
Chris Daniels, the head of WhatsApp, is also leaving.
The news comes shortly after Facebook announced a significant shift in strategic focus to emphasise “privacy.” Other changes in the leadership team are also afoot. Will Cathcart, the former head of Facebook’s core app, is moving over to WhatsApp to take on Daniels’ old role. And Fidji Simo is becoming the head of the Facebook app.
The role of chief product officer will not be filled by anyone. Instead, the heads of Facebook’s various apps – Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram – will now report directly to Zuckerberg, cementing the CEO’s hold over them as Facebook prepares to embark on an ambitious project to partially merge the apps.
Facebook, long criticised for eroding privacy norms, mishandling user data, and collecting vast reams of data on people for advertising purposes, has in recent weeks said it wants to pivot to focus more on protecting user privacy.
Zuckerberg repeatedly referred to this shift in his memo announcing the departures. “This is an important change as we begin the next chapter of our work building the privacy-focused social foundation for the future,” he wrote. “I’m deeply grateful for everything Chris Cox and Chris Daniels have done here, and I’m looking forward to working with Will and Fidji in their new roles as well as everyone who will be critical to achieving this vision. We have so much important work ahead and I’m excited to continue working to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
Cox was one of the earliest Facebook employees, joining in 2005, and helped build core products, including the News Feed. His exit is the highest-profile executive departure at the company in years.
In a goodbye note posted to his Facebook page, Cox wrote: “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.”
Cox, a key lieutenant of the 34-year-old billionaire chief exec, had been planning to leave for “a few years” but stayed on to help respond to Facebook’s successive scandals and crises,Zuckerberg said in a memo to employees that the company also shared publicly.
This story is developing…
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Here’s the full memo from Zuckerberg:
“Today Mark Zuckerberg shared the following post with employees.
“Hey everyone – I want to share some important updates as we organise our company to build out the privacy-focused social platform I discussed in my note last week. Embarking on this new vision represents the start of a new chapter for us.
“As part of this, I’m sad to share the news that Chris Cox has decided to leave the company. Chris and I have worked closely together to build our products for more than a decade and I will always appreciate his deep empathy for the people using our services and the uplifting spirit he brings to everything he does. He has played so many central roles at Facebook – starting as an engineer on our original News Feed, building our first HR teams and helping to define our mission and values, leading our product and design teams, running the Facebook app, and most recently overseeing the strategy for our family of apps. Along the way, Chris has helped train many great leaders who are now in important roles across the company – including some who will now take on bigger roles in our new product efforts.
“For a few years, Chris has been discussing with me his desire to do something else. He is one of the most talented people I know and he has the potential to do anything he wants. But after 2016, we both realised we had too much important work to do to improve our products for society, and he stayed to help us work through these issues and help us chart a course for our family of apps going forward. At this point, we have made real progress on many issues and we have a clear plan for our apps, centered around making private messaging, stories and groups the foundation of the experience, including enabling encryption and interoperability across our services. As we embark on this next major chapter, Chris has decided now is the time to step back from leading these teams. I will really miss Chris, but mostly I am deeply grateful for everything he has done to build this place and serve our community.
“At the same time, as we embark on this new chapter, Chris Daniels has also decided to leave the company. Chris has also done great work in many roles, including running our business development team, leading Internet.org, which has helped more than 100 million people get access to the internet, and most recently at WhatsApp, where he has helped define the business model for our messaging services going forward. Chris is one of the clearest and most principled business thinkers I’ve met and the diversity of challenges he has helped us navigate is impressive. I’ve really enjoyed working with Chris and I’m sure he will do great work at whatever he chooses to take on next.
“While it is sad to lose such great people, this also creates opportunities for more great leaders who are energised about the path ahead to take on new and bigger roles.
“I’m excited that Will Cathcart will be the new head of WhatsApp. Will is one of the most talented leaders at our company – always focused on solving the most important problems for people and clear-eyed about the challenges and tradeoffs we face. Most recently he has done a great job running the Facebook app, where he has led our shift to focusing on meaningful social interactions and has significantly improved the performance and reliability of the app. In his career here, Will has helped lead our teams focused on security and integrity, and he believes deeply in providing end-to-end encryption to everyone in the world across our services.
“I’m also excited that Fidji Simo will be the new head of the Facebook app. She is one of our most talented product and organizational leaders – passionate about building community and supporting creativity, and focused on building strong teams and developing future leaders. She has played key roles in building many aspects of the Facebook app, including leading our work on video and advertising. She believes deeply in helping people get more value out of the networks they have built. She has already led this team for much of last year while Will was out on parental leave, and she is the clear person to lead these efforts going forward.
“Our family of apps strategy has been led jointly by Chris Cox and Javier Olivan. Chris managed the leaders of the apps directly and Javi has been responsible for all of the central product services that work across our apps, including safety and integrity, analytics, growth, and ads. Javi will now lead identifying where our apps should be more integrated. Javi is an incredibly thoughtful, strategic and analytical leader, and I’m confident this work will continue to go well. Since we have now decided on the basic direction of our family of apps for the next few years, I do not plan on immediately appointing anyone to fill Chris’s role in the near term. Instead, the leaders of Facebook (Fidji Simo), Instagram (Adam Mosseri), Messenger (Stan Chudnovsky), and WhatsApp (Will Cathcart) will report directly to me, and our Chief Marketing Officer (Antonio Lucio) will report directly to Sheryl.
“This is an important change as we begin the next chapter of our work building the privacy-focused social foundation for the future. I’m deeply grateful for everything Chris Cox and Chris Daniels have done here, and I’m looking forward to working with Will and Fidji in their new roles as well as everyone who will be critical to achieving this vision. We have so much important work ahead and I’m excited to continue working to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
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