Just last spring, Chris Cox, the manager product police officers of Facebook, was promoted to likewise supervise WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. It seemed at the time almost like succession planning. If Mark Zuckerberg were to ever leave the company, Cox, his longtime confidante and a representative of the engineering and product back, would be set up to run it.
But Cox announced today that, after 13 times at the company, he’s leaving. “For over a decade, I &# x27; ve been sharing the same content that Mark and I have always believed: Social media &# x27; s history is not yet written, and its effects are not neutral. It is tied up in the richness and intricacy 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 activities of deflecting it towards the positive, and towards the good. This is our greatest responsibility, ” he wrote.
Cox has been a beloved employee at the company, leading orientations for new hires and helping defined the company’s product strategy in all styles. He was a calm presence in a chaotic place, and insiders jokingly referred to him as “the Ryan Gosling of Facebook Product.” He was one of the first 15 technologists at the company–back when it was still called “The Facebook”–and he helped design the early different versions of NewsFeed, Facebook’s most important product. He managed human relations earlier today, which probably good training for his later position of managing relations with a restive news industry. Last year he sat for a long interview with WIRED and clarified the intricacies of how the company police fake report and abhor lecture, one of Facebook’s identified priority for 2018.
It seemed, for years, that Cox and Zuckerberg interpreted eye to eye on nearly everything. But there is a suggestion in Cox’s statement that, perhaps, a major recent decision drove them apart, and an employee at the company in a position to know demonstrated, in a discussion with WIRED, that that is indeed a major reason why Cox is leaving. After all, many of the projects he worked on–countering filter foams, fake report, and detest speech–become much harder when all the data is encrypted. Cox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg published a manifesto about privacy that offered up a new direction for the company, one based on encrypted messaging and the interoperability of all of the messaging platforms that Cox supervises. And in Cox’s statement there is a clue that that might have inspired today’s proclamation. “As Mark has outlined, we are turning a brand-new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging system. It &# x27; s a product eyesight attuned to the subject matter of today: a modern communications platform that balances expression, safety, security, and privacy. This will be a big job, and we will need presidents who are stimulated to determine the brand-new direction through.”
That surely sounds like Cox is saying he isn’t altogether stimulated to see this project through.
Zuckerberg, too, may have intimated at this in an interview with WIRED last week. When told you about changing focus at a company as big as Facebook, Zuckerberg answered, “There &# x27; s a lot of project that goes into get the teams aligned and getting the right leaders in place who believe in these priorities, and being able to execute on that.”
After consolidating all of Facebook’s products under Cox a year ago, Facebook said it would now separate them apart under separate commanders, similar to how they’d was put forward before. In a note published on Facebook’s Newsroom blog, Zuckerberg like to remind you that Chris Daniels, who’s been running WhatsApp since the reorganization a year ago, and before that had operated Facebook’s Internet.org for five years, is likewise leaving Facebook. Will Cathcart, who had been in charge of the Facebook app, will now moved WhatsApp. Fidji Simo, who had been running the Facebook app while Cathcart was out on paternity leave, will take on that job full-time. Adam Mosseri will continue to run Instagram. And Stan Chudnovsky will continue to run Messenger. Zuckerberg said he would not fill Cox’s job and indicated that these division heads would is directly responsible to him. At 7 pm ET today, Zuckerberg and Cox will have a Q& A with the company in which they will surely discuss the changes.
Many commentators weren’t sure what the hell is make of Zuckerberg’s announcement about privacy last week. How much of it was a general philosophical transformation, and how much was just a new business strategy? With Cox’s resignation, one thing is perfectly clear: Zuckerberg’s pivot is now officially a very big deal.