Facebook undergoes its biggest-ever executive shuffle as it invests in blockchain

Tim Maytom

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has announced the biggest shakeup of executive roles in its 15 year history. New leaders have been appointed to WhatsApp, Messenger and the core Facebook app, while long-serving Facebook executives have been given new responsibilities including a renewed effort to integrate blockchain into Facebook's product line.

The changes, which were announced internally to employees yesterday, come following a tumultuous year for the social network which has seen public and advertiser trust impacted by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Russian manipulation and the proliferation of 'fake news'.

Facebook's product and engineering organisations have been reorganised into three main divisions, including a new 'Family of Apps' group that will be headed up by chief product officer Chris Cox, who previously led the core Facebook app. Cox will now also oversee Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger.

Javier Olivan, vice president of growth, will lead the 'Central Product Services' division, which governs shared features that operate across multiple products or apps in Facebook's portfolio, such as analytics, security, growth and ads. Mark Rabkin, former director of engineering, will now be in charge of ads.

Finally, chief technology officer Mike Shroepfer will be in charge of new platforms and infrastructure. This includes AI, AR/VR, engineering, data privacy and infrastructure, and blockchain, a new division led by David Marcus. The former PayPal executive, who previously ran Facebook's Messenger app, will explore how this much-discussed technology can be integrated into Facebook's existing product line, or how it could be used to build new products for the company to launch .

The primary aim for the restructure is to provide clearer lines of communication for Facebook's executives, which have previously suffered from relatively tangled reporting lines. For example, WhatsApp used to report directly to Mark Zuckerberg, while Instagram spoke to Shroepfer and Messenger to Olivan. Now, all three, along with the core Facebook app, will report through Chris Cox.

The changes have not, so far, resulted in any new hires for Facebook, nor have there been any departures beyond WhatsApp's Jan Koum, who had already announced that he was leaving the firm. The reshuffle has not seen a dramatic increase in diversity either, with white men still dominating Facebook's leadership team, and only one woman heading up one of the new subdivisions (Naomi Gleit, who will lead integrity, growth and product management as part of Javier Olivan's group).

Whether these changes will result in a dramatic shift in Facebook's policies will remain to be seen, as will any improvements the new structure brings to internal communication. One thing is certain though - Mark Zuckerberg remains at the centre of Facebook's organisation, and he doesn't appear to be going anywhere.