Facebook Loses Longtime Product Chief as It Revamps Strategy

Roman Schwartz
March 15, 2019

Cox, who dropped out of a Stanford University graduate degree program to work with Zuckerberg when the company had just 15 engineers, was widely seen as one of the most popular and capable executives at the social network - and a potential replacement CEO, were Zuckerberg to leave.

In his post, Zuckerberg announced further reorganization of the company's top ranks and the departure of Chris Daniels, another executive who ran Internet.org, the company's philanthropic project to promote global internet access, and was recently promoted to lead WhatsApp.

The latest, and perhaps most surprising, exit happened today when Facebook announced that Chris Cox, the company's chief product officer, was on his way out. Less than a year ago, he was put in charge of all of Facebook's apps, including its flagship social media site as well as Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

Cox joined Facebook in 2005 and is largely responsible for the News Feed, one of Facebook's foundational features.

Will Cathcart, vice president of product management, will now lead WhatsApp, and Head of Video, Games and Monetization Fidji Simo will be the new head of the Facebook app, Zuckerberg said. In a note to employees about Cox's departure, Zuckerberg said Cox had been talking to him for a few years about doing something else but made a decision to stay after 2016 to help improve the social network.

"This is an important change as we begin the next chapter of our work building the privacy-focused social foundation for the future".

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Neither Cox nor Zuckerberg specified what led to their split. In October, Oculus co-founder and former CEO Brendan Iribe announced he was leaving the Facebook-owned virtual reality company.

Mark Zuckerberg has lost two of his closest lieutenants in a major setback for Facebook as it seeks to shift its strategy towards private messaging.

The departures of Cox and Daniels come a day after a technical issue that limited use of Facebook and Instagram for most of Wednesday.

"As Mark has outlined, we are turning a new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network".

Originally published March 14, 1:19 p.m. Update, 1:48 p.m.: Includes more background and Zuckerberg's post to employees; 1:55 p.m.: Adds background about other executive departures; 2:15 p.m.: Includes post from Chris Cox.

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