Facebook just lost two key execs: Why the impact could be huge

Chris Burns - Mar 14, 2019, 4:35 pm CDT
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Facebook just lost two key execs: Why the impact could be huge

Facebook just announced the loss of two of its most major executives. One was the Facebook head of product, the other was the head of WhatsApp. Chris Cox has apparently been wanting to leave the company for “a few years,” according to company head Mark Zuckerberg. WhatsApp head Chris Daniels has also “decided to leave the company” – and Zuckerberg’s used the same language in announcing the apparent self-made decisions by both leaders. If we analyze the language used by Zuckerberg in his note today, we can glean a bit before we move on to more grand analysis.

“While it is sad to lose such great people,” said Zuckerberg, “This also creates opportunities for more great leaders who are energized about the path ahead to take on new and bigger roles.” The message has a line saying the text was sent to employees today – but the positivity and the use of certain words makes it feel more like a note to shareholders.

Seamless power switch, no worries here!

To that end, new leaders are already stepping into the roles vacated by their predecessors today. Will Cathcart will take over WhatsApp. Will Cathcart was most recently in charge of the Facebook app. In the note, Zuckerberg mentions Cathcart’s focus on “security and integrity” as well as how he “believes deeply in providing end-to-end encryption to everyone in the world across our services.”

Fidji Simo will take over running the Facebook app team. Simo’s been on the Facebook app team for some time, and previously led the team during Cathcart’s recent parental leave for a period last year.

Cox was in charge of products for Facebook, and both Cox and another person by the name of Javier Olivan were in charge of Facebook’s “family of apps strategy.” Olivan was “responsible for all of the central product services that work across our apps, including safety and integrity, analytics, growth, and ads.”

Zuckerberg’s zooming in on management

Apparently there will be no replacement for the role jointly held by Cox and Olivan. Olivan will instead “lead identifying where our apps should be more integrated.” Zuckerberg suggested today that since the company’s already decided on “the basic direction” of their apps for “the next few years,” that he will not immediately appoint to fill Cox’s role “in the near term.”

Instead, it would appear that Zuckerberg wishes to take on additional work. The leaders of each of the four main Facebook apps will report directly to Zuckerberg, while the CMO will report to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Zuckerberg summoned the term “privacy-focused social foundation for the future” in his message’s final paragraph. Just in case you were still worried about privacy with Facebook, clearly they’re SUPER focused on privacy, because Zuckerberg cannot stop talking about it in public.

No mention of hardware

Not mentioned at all, whatsoever, was any sort of impact this switching of roles will have on hardware. No mention of Portal, and no talk of anything other than apps, really.

Before now, Zuckerberg essentially spoke with three heads of Facebook’s biggest subgroups. CTO Mike Schroepfer, who focused on new platforms and infrastructure. Javier Olivan, VP of Growth, who in May of 2018 was in charge of central product services. And CPO Chris Cox, in charge of the Facebook family of apps.

It would seem that Zuckerberg’s latest move puts him in a position where there are fewer steps between his decisions and final products. This might well make the future of Facebook feel a whole lot different for those whose roles have changed this week.


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