The Era of the News Feed is Over

The Era of the News Feed is Over
The Era of the News Feed is Over

After a decade of executive instability, Mark Zuckerberg announced a series of dramatic changes last May. He moved two top executives in a bid to create a new blockchain division, and installed new heads at WhatsApp and the News Feed.

He also appointed someone to run a new group dedicated to privacy initiatives, though this last move has flown very much under the radar ever since.

Zuckerberg has become known in recent months for his substantive blog posts, but was uncharacteristically quiet about the strategy behind these moves. Now, the method behind the madness is emerging in light of a new Facebook strategy unveiled earlier this month: the company is moving toward a future dominated not by public news feeds but by private, encrypted messaging services.

At the same time, Chris Cox is leaving the company after more than ten years of working there, hinting at this shift in direction as the reason for his departure: “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.”

The move is likely to be bad for company morale, with Cox long one of the most popular executives in the company as the longtime leader of new employee orientations and an internal cheerleader for the social media giant.

Furthermore, Cox leaves at an awkward time for Facebook, with a new criminal investigation looming in New York regarding data sharing practices and in the wake of the longest site outage in memory.

Zuckerberg has said that he has no plans to appoint a replacement for Cox as chief product officer; rather, Javier Olivan, who ran a division called “central product services”, will take over the task of further aligning Facebook’s family of apps while each app’s individual leaders report directly to Zuckerberg himself.

The reshuffle goes beyond Coz. Chris Daniels, who previously ran, is leaving the WhatsApp division. Under his lead, the company continued to grow in core markets like Brazil and India, though also suffered a series of public relations setbacks by its association with the spread of misinformation and hate speech around the world. Deservedly or not, Daniels also made a powerful enemy in the Indian government, and Zuckerberg is no doubt keen to wipe the slate clean.

Will Cathcart, whose previous role oversaw the running of the News Feed, will be taking over for Daniels. Fidji Simo will be taking over the Facebook app, though the optics of handing a division to one of Facebook’s few female executives in the same month that Zuckerberg describes the app as “yesterday’s news feed” aren’t great.

Amid the reshuffle, one thing is clear: Zuckerberg is dead set on reforming his company’s image as well as its internal strategy, and the online world cannot help but reform around the ripples of his decisions.

A native New Yorker, Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.  He was recently profiled in Haute Living