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Facebook loses longtime product chief as it revamps strategy

It comes after Facebook announced a shift towards private messaging.


Facebook’s former chief of product officer, Chris Cox (Sunday Alamba/AP)
Facebook’s former chief of product officer, Chris Cox (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Facebook is losing its product chief Chris Cox, a top-ranking executive who spent more than a decade at the company, just a week after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced a major new direction for the social network.

The departure, announced on Thursday, follows Mr Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook will shift its emphasis to private messaging over public sharing.

Mr Cox, 36, worked closely with Mr Zuckerberg through the company’s ups and downs, having joined up about 20 months after Facebook was hatched in 2004 in Mr Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room.

Neither Mr Cox nor Mr Zuckerberg specified what led to their split.

“Most all my personal highs and lows of the last decade have been tied up in the journey of this company, with Mark, and with so many of you,” Mr Cox wrote in a post.

“This place will forever be a part of me.”

Mr Zuckerberg said Mr Cox first mentioned he might leave a few years ago, but decided to stay on after 2016 as evidence emerged that Russians had manipulated Facebook’s services to provoke discord in the US and influence the election won by President Donald Trump.

“I will always appreciate his deep empathy for the people using our services and the uplifting spirit he brings to everything he does,” Mr Zuckerberg said of Mr Cox in his parting note.

Mr Cox has pocketed 310 million US dollars (£234 million) in gains from exercising Facebook stock options from 2014 through 2017 alone, according to the company’s filings with securities regulators.

Mr Zuckerberg also announced another departure — Chris Daniels, who had been overseeing Facebook’s encrypted messaging service WhatsApp.

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Mr Daniels is leaving less than a year after WhatsApp founder Jan Koum resigned in an apparent dispute with Mr Zuckerberg over the future direction of the widely used messaging service.

Facebook is not hiring another executive to replace Mr Cox.

Instead, the leaders of the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram apps that Mr Cox oversaw will report to Mr Zuckerberg.

Longtime Facebook executive Will Cathcart will take over Mr Daniels’s job running WhatsApp.

Mr Zuckerberg wants to evolve Facebook’s messaging apps into private forums where people can communicate without worrying about what they are sharing being seen and shared by others.

That effort will include introducing WhatsApp encryption technology to Facebook’s Messenger app and Instagram’s messaging option.

Mr Zuckerberg is also promising to make photos and posts automatically disappear from public view.

Facebook’s social network and Instagram photo app will not change.

Forrester analyst Jessica Liu said it sounded like Mr Cox was “subtly disagreeing” with Mr Zuckerberg’s privacy memo, based on Mr Cox’s farewell post.

“Facebook Inc is a massive and evolving company, so it’s only natural that in a company that large, not everyone will agree with every strategic change,” she said.

Press Association

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