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Facebook, at crossroads, loses veteran execs

Chris Cox crosses paths with Mark Zuckerberg at a Facebook staff meeting.
Chris Cox crosses paths with Mark Zuckerberg at a Facebook staff meeting. Photo: Facebook

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sets out on an ambitious but challenging effort to remake the social network, he will be doing so without 2 of the company's seasoned veterans.

Driving the news: Facebook announced the exit of product chief Chris Cox and WhatsApp head Chris Daniels on Thursday.

  • Cox, one of Facebook's earliest hires, who was instrumental in the development of the News Feed, was widely viewed as the company's number 3 executive after Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Why it matters: The departures come as Zuckerberg looks to shift focus away from the News Feed and toward private, personal communications that work across Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram.

Between the lines: It was apparently not a direction that sat well with Cox, who said in a public post about his exit:

"As Mark has outlined, we are turning a new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network. ... This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through."
Chris Cox

What we're hearing: According to NYT's Mike Isaac, both executives had issues with Zuckerberg's move.

  • While Daniels' exit had apparently been planned for some time, the departures were announced as the company grapples with other challenges on the technical and legal fronts.
  • Facebook spent Thursday trying to recover from an hours-long outage, the worst disruption in the company's history. Facebook said a glitch with a server configuration led to the unexpected downtime.
  • And the NYT reported on Wednesday that the company is under criminal investigation for its data-sharing deals with other tech companies.

The bottom line: Facebook's plate of troubles continues to overflow. Or, as my former co-worker Kara Swisher wrote in her column, "I think we can safely say that only Aunt Becky from 'Full House' — that would be Lori Loughlin, captain of the college admissions bad parenting squad — is having a worse time this week."

Separately, Instagram communications head Kristina Schake is also leaving Facebook. She is filling in as Michelle Obama's communications director while the former First Lady continues her book tour. (The person who normally does that job, Caroline Adler Morales, is on maternity leave.)