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Facebook blows up its org chart

May 8 · Issue #132 · View online
The Interface
Among large technology companies, very few have a leadership team as stable as Facebook’s. Every time Twitter changes its head of product — once a year or so for the past half-decade — I’m reminded that Facebook has had a single person in that role the entire time: Chris Cox. The rest of the leadership team, from COO Sheryl Sandberg to CTO Mike Schroepfer, has been similarly static.
Without offering any public explanation, today Mark Zuckerberg threw some dynamite at the org chart. Kurt Wagner, my colleague at Recode, broke the news in a piece that everyone should read. Here are the five most important changes, to my mind, in descending order:
1. David Marcus and Kevin Weil to create a new blockchain division. Marcus is leaving Messenger, where he oversaw tremendous growth in both number of users and features that nobody uses. It’s hard to assess Marcus’ legacy without knowing Messenger’s financials, but as a user I’m less enthusiastic about Messenger than I was when he started. What began as a fun, lightweight utility gradually transformed into a junk drawer full of games, payments, bots, stories, and stickers. Now Marcus, whose previous job was CEO of PayPal, can get back to his first love: abstruse payment architectures. 
Weil was Instagram’s head of product and, from this user’s perspective, an excellent one. He oversaw not just the successful implementation of stories but its rapid iteration, as it became the first to launch features such as story highlights in the profile. He leaves as the team is testing a standalone messaging app, called Direct, and continuing to invest in new live video features. His move to the mystery blockchain division is a curveball, though given how bad most blockchain products have been to date, he’ll be a welcome addition to the team.
2. Adam Mosseri to become head of product at Instagram. Mosseri’s previous job was running the News Feed, where he was overseeing efforts to restore its integrity after the bruising events of the past year and a half. I like Mosseri a lot — he takes more than his share of abuse on Twitter, gamely responding to tweets from hostile users in his spare time. It would be a mistake to assume he’ll take the same approach to Instagram’s feed as Facebook took to the News Feed — but I’ll be watching the company’s next big moves closely to see where there’s overlap. (Also notable here: Mosseri is leaving the News Feed with many initiatives to improve it under way, but long before it can truly said to be fixed. His successor, John Hegeman, will be under a lot of pressure.)
3. Jay Parikh to lead a new group focused on privacy initiatives. This could turn out to be one of those hard jobs where the people who make money at the company are trying to undermine you at every turn, so I’ll be fascinated to see what emerges from what are likely to be some bruising internal battles. The last time I talked to Parikh it was about Facebook’s internet plane, Aquila. People who work at Facebook get to work on a wide range of issues!
4. Chris Daniels is taking over WhatsApp. I don’t know anything at all about Chris Daniels. (If you do, email me!) I can say that with Brian Acton and Jan Koum now out of the way, WhatsApp is about to undergo a total Facebookization. Daniels, a longtime Facebook executive who previously worked on, would seem well positioned to make that happen.
5. Chris Cox is a mega-executive now. Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook’s flagship app, and Messenger (now run by legendary growth hacker Stan Chudnovsky) all report up to him. In a way, this was already true — that’s what it means to be the head of product at Facebook. But the move further establishes Cox as Zuckerberg’s tippy-top deputy for all things product, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him become Facebook CEO someday.
Some storylines to watch in the weeks ahead:
  • What prompted these changes? Is there a grand design here, or was it a series of disconnected moves that the company decided to announce all at once? (It would be helpful if someone leaked the email to employees.)
  • Will the reshuffling affect any of the more urgent initiatives around improving News Feed integrity, data privacy, or protecting users from malicious actors?
  • Will the increasingly centralized nature of product development at Facebook undermine the individual apps?
  • What the hell is Facebook going to do on the blockchain?
And finally: yesterday we told you that Google I/O would have big implications for social media companies. Looking at the new Android P, with its system-level features for limiting the amount of time you spend on apps like Instagram, we may have understated the case. There’s lots more to say here; look for more from me tomorrow.

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