Chris Cox, chief product officer of Facebook Inc., gestures whilst speaking during the Dmexco digital marketing conference in Cologne, Germany. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg Really Meant What He Said

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- When it comes to Facebook Inc., Chris Cox has been very, very important to the company.

He was an executive from the social network’s early years, a friend and vacation buddy of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, a touchstone of the corporate culture and the person most responsible for the "news feed," the stream of posts in Facebook that has become a defining feature both there and for many other internet hangouts. 

And now, after 13 years at Facebook, and less than one year since he was  handed expanded responsibilities, Cox said he is leaving.

News of his departure stunned people who know the company well. And it may mean the "privacy pivot" Zuckerberg recently announced for his company, which I thought was window dressing, might actually be a new path for the tech giant. 

Cox in his message to Facebook employees referred to Facebook "turning a new page in product direction" toward what Zuckerberg has said is more private communications or interactions among small groups of people, rather than the mass broadcasts to the world for which Facebook is known. 

"This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through," Cox wrote – an indication, perhaps, that he wasn't thrilled with this path for Facebook, or just doesn't have the energy to help lead it. To be fair, 13 years at Facebook – particularly the last three – must have felt like 300 human years.  

I'm wary of reading too much into a single line in Cox's Facebook message. But his suggestion, at least, is that Facebook is indeed going somewhere new. I declared myself bored of Zuckerberg's manifestos, but his latest may have been more real that the PR spin I assumed it to be. 

For Facebook, it has to be dislocating for another leadership change after the controversial departures of the founders of Instagram and WhatsApp in the last 18 months, plus other leadership shake-ups and now a reshuffling to take over the duties of Cox and Chris Daniels, who had been in charge of WhatsApp in recent months and will now leave Facebook as well. 

One constant in the executive tumult is that Facebook has become Zuckerberg's company now more than ever. Whether that's good for the company or for the company's billions of users – we'll see.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Shira Ovide is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology. She previously was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

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