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Facebook loses CPO Chris Cox and WhatsApp VP Chris Daniels – TechCrunch

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Thirteen-year Facebook veteran, chief product officer and the spirit animal of the social network Chris Cox is departing the company after two years of seeking to do something new. Cox’s exit is part of a big executive reshuffle as Facebook embarks on prioritizing privacy through messaging, groups, Stories and back-end unification of its chat features.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained the departure of his long-time friend, saying, “For a few years, Chris has been discussing with me his desire to do something else . . . But after 2016, we both realized we had too much important work to do to improve our products for society, and he stayed to help us work through these issues and help us chart a course for our family of apps going forward. At this point, we have made real progress . . .  As we embark on this next major chapter, Chris has decided now is the time to step back from leading these teams.”

VP of WhatsApp Chris Daniels leaves Facebook

Cox bowing out after so long is understandable, but more surprising is today’s departure of Chris Daniels, an eight-year employee who was moved from being head of Internet.org to VP of WhatsApp just last May in a major re-org. Daniels always felt like a strange choice to oversee international chat leader WhatsApp and its struggles with misinformation in India, given he’d led Internet.org when its zero-rated Free Basics app was banned in India for violating net neutrality.

The changes solidify that Facebook is entering a new era as it chases the trend of feed sharing giving way to private communication. Cox and Daniels may feel they’ve done their part advancing Facebook’s product, and that the company needs renewed energy as it shifts from a relentless growth focus to keeping its users loyal while learning to monetize a new from of social networking.

Here’s the breakdown of the executive changes:

  • Chris Cox will depart Facebook, but hasn’t revealed plans for what’s next. He will not be immediately replaced
  • Chris Daniels will leave WhatsApp, and Facebook declined to provide any details on why or the circumstances
  • Will Cathcart will go from running the main Facebook app to VP of WhatsApp
  • Fidji Simo, who was the VP of Product for Facebook video, news and advertising, will take over Cathcart’s role running Facebook’s main app
  • Javier Olivan, who was Facebook’s VP of growth, will lead the task of identifying how to integrate Facebook’s products, including the plan to unify the backend of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram direct to expand encryption and allow cross-app messaging that some see as a shield against Facebook being broken up
  • Instagram VP Adam Mosseri, Messenger’s VP Stan Chudnovsky, Simo, and Cathcart will now report directly to  Zuckerberg, while Chief Marketing Officer Antonio Lucio reports to COO Sheryl Sandberg

Cox was one of Facebook’s first 15 engineers, joining in 2005 after Zuckerberg convinced him to drop out of a Stanford grad program. He became Facebook’s director of Human Resources and, in 2008, its VP of product. He was promoted to CPO in 2014 and aided in Facebook’s clean-up after the 2016 presidential election, working on misinformation and at-risk countries to deter future attacks on democracy. Over the years, he remained a fixture of Zuckerberg’s inner circle of friends and lieutenants. Oh, and he’s a wicked keyboardist who plays is a very respectable reggae band.

Known for his hit talk revealing the Timeline profile at F8 2011 and giving rousing orientation speeches to each batch of new Facebook employees, Cox’s departure could drag on Facebook’s already shaky morale. Some staffers saw him as a preferred replacement for Zuckerberg should he ever leave the CEO role. That leaves the line of succession an open question at Facebook, with Sandberg, Olivan and Mosseri as the most likely candidates. Cox was seen as so essential that Facebook filed an 8-K disclosure with the SEC about his departure.

The biggest clue to Cox’s departure might be the juxtaposition of a line from his departure note with one from Zuckerberg’s. Cox writes about redefining Facebook around privacy and encryption that “This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.” Meanwhile, Zuckerberg wrote “Will [Cathcart] has helped lead our teams focused on security and integrity, and he believes deeply in providing end-to-end encryption to everyone in the world across our services.” Reading between the lines, it seems Cathcart was more enthusiastic about executing Facebook’s new roadmap of encryption than Cox.

Some consider encryption as a potential hinderance to other safety work, as it could make it difficult to detect the spread of misinformation or illegal activity. TechCrunch’s investigation into child sexual abuse imagery on WhatsApp revealed that its end-to-end encryption makes it much tougher to catch bad actors.

The change in priority from growth to sustainability through privacy is cemented by Olivan’s new responsibilities. While rarely in the spotlight, his team was seen as one of the most important and powerful at the company. His talents will be applied to making Facebook’s apps work together to prevent churn of its enormous user base, which will take careful product design and a savvy understanding of people’s expectations. Instagram and WhatsApp have become golden geese for Facebook, and Olivan will have to ensure they’re not tarnished through deeper connections to Facebook’s battered brand.

Hey everyone — I want to share some important updates as we organize our company to build out the privacy-focused social platform I discussed in my note last week. Embarking on this new vision represents the start of a new chapter for us.

As part of this, I’m sad to share the news that Chris Cox has decided to leave the company. Chris and I have worked closely together to build our products for more than a decade and I will always appreciate his deep empathy for the people using our services and the uplifting spirit he brings to everything he does. He has played so many central roles at Facebook — starting as an engineer on our original News Feed, building our first HR teams and helping to define our mission and values, leading our product and design teams, running the Facebook app, and most recently overseeing the strategy for our family of apps. Along the way, Chris has helped train many great leaders who are now in important roles across the company — including some who will now take on bigger roles in our new product efforts.

For a few years, Chris has been discussing with me his desire to do something else. He is one of the most talented people I know and he has the potential to do anything he wants. But after 2016, we both realized we had too much important work to do to improve our products for society, and he stayed to help us work through these issues and help us chart a course for our family of apps going forward. At this point, we have made real progress on many issues and we have a clear plan for our apps, centered around making private messaging, stories and groups the foundation of the experience, including enabling encryption and interoperability across our services. As we embark on this next major chapter, Chris has decided now is the time to step back from leading these teams. I will really miss Chris, but mostly I am deeply grateful for everything he has done to build this place and serve our community.

At the same time, as we embark on this new chapter, Chris Daniels has also decided to leave the company. Chris has also done great work in many roles, including running our business development team, leading Internet.org, which has helped more than 100 million people get access to the internet, and most recently at WhatsApp, where he has helped define the business model for our messaging services going forward. Chris is one of the clearest and most principled business thinkers I’ve met and the diversity of challenges he has helped us navigate is impressive. I’ve really enjoyed working with Chris and I’m sure he will do great work at whatever he chooses to take on next.

While it is sad to lose such great people, this also creates opportunities for more great leaders who are energized about the path ahead to take on new and bigger roles.

I’m excited that Will Cathcart will be the new head of WhatsApp. Will is one of the most talented leaders at our company — always focused on solving the most important problems for people and clear-eyed about the challenges and tradeoffs we face. Most recently he has done a great job running the Facebook app, where he has led our shift to focusing on meaningful social interactions and has significantly improved the performance and reliability of the app. In his career here, Will has helped lead our teams focused on security and integrity, and he believes deeply in providing end-to-end encryption to everyone in the world across our services.

I’m also excited that Fidji Simo will be the new head of the Facebook app. She is one of our most talented product and organizational leaders — passionate about building community and supporting creativity, and focused on building strong teams and developing future leaders. She has played key roles in building many aspects of the Facebook app, including leading our work on video and advertising. She believes deeply in helping people get more value out of the networks they’ve built. She has already led this team for much of last year while Will was out on parental leave, and she is the clear person to lead these efforts going forward.

Our family of apps strategy has been led jointly by Chris Cox and Javier Olivan. Chris managed the leaders of the apps directly and Javi has been responsible for all of the central product services that work across our apps, including safety and integrity, analytics, growth, and ads. Javi will now lead identifying where our apps should be more integrated. Javi is an incredibly thoughtful, strategic and analytical leader, and I’m confident this work will continue to go well. Since we have now decided on the basic direction of our family of apps for the next few years, I do not plan on immediately appointing anyone to fill Chris’s role in the near term. Instead, the leaders of Facebook (Fidji Simo), Instagram (Adam Mosseri), Messenger (Stan Chudnovsky), and WhatsApp (Will Cathcart) will report directly to me, and our Chief Marketing Officer (Antonio Lucio) will report directly to Sheryl.

This is an important change as we begin the next chapter of our work building the privacy-focused social foundation for the future. I’m deeply grateful for everything Chris Cox and Chris Daniels have done here, and I’m looking forward to working with Will and Fidji in their new roles as well as everyone who will be critical to achieving this vision. We have so much important work ahead and I’m excited to continue working to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. 

It is with great sadness I share with you that after thirteen years, I’ve decided to leave the company.

Since I was twenty-three, I’ve poured myself into these walls. The pixels, the code, the products we’ve built together, the language, the culture, the values, the big ideas, and most of all, the people. Most all my personal highs and lows of the last decade have been tied up in the journey of this company, with Mark, and with so many of you. This place will forever be a part of me.

On Monday I gave my last orientation at Facebook to a hundred new faces. For over a decade, I’ve been sharing the same message that Mark and I have always believed: social media’s history is not yet written, and its effects are not neutral. It is tied up in the richness and complexity of social life. As its builders we must endeavor to understand its impact — all the good, and all the bad — and take up the daily work of bending it towards the positive, and towards the good. This is our greatest responsibility.

As Mark has outlined, we are turning a new page in our product direction, focused on an encrypted, interoperable, messaging network. It’s a product vision attuned to the subject matter of today: a modern communications platform that balances expression, safety, security, and privacy. This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.

I’m proud of the team who will succeed me: Fidji, Will, Adam, Stan, and Antonio. They are strong leaders, serious thinkers, good managers, craftspeople, and most importantly, deeply good people. I trust that, along with Mark, they will carry on the work of building out our platforms in a way that honors the responsibilities we have to the billions of people who rely upon our tools each day.

Mark, thank you for creating this place, and for the chance to work beside a dear friend for over thirteen years. Thank you Sheryl, Schrep, and Javi for your partnership, and for showing me what a wise and dedicated team is meant to be. And to the company: thank you for your creativity, humanity, resilience, and sleepless nights. It has been an honor to work alongside you and I will miss you dearly.

-Chris

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PayPal’s new ‘super app’ is ready to launch, will also include messaging – TechCrunch

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PayPal’s plan to morph itself into a “super app” have been given a go for launch. According to PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, speaking to investors during this week’s second-quarter earnings, the initial version of PayPal’s new consumer digital wallet app is now “code complete” and the company is preparing to slowly ramp up. Over the next several months, PayPal expects to be fully ramped in the U.S., with new payment services, financial services, commerce and shopping tools arriving every quarter.

The company has spoken for some time about its “super app” ambitions — a shift in product direction that would make PayPal a U.S.-based version of something like China’s WeChat or Alipay or India’s Paytm. Similar to these apps, PayPal aims to offer a host of consumer services under one roof, beyond just mobile payments.

In previous quarters, PayPal said these new features may include things like enhanced direct deposit, check cashing, budgeting tools, bill pay, crypto support, subscription management, and buy now/pay later functionality. It also said it would integrate commerce, thanks to the mobile shopping tools acquired by way of its $4 billion Honey acquisition from 2019.

So far, PayPal has continued to run Honey as a standalone application, website and browser extension, but the super app could incorporate more of its deal-finding functions, price tracking features, and other benefits.

On Wednesday’s earnings call, Schulman revealed the super app would include a few other features as well, including high-yield savings, early access to direct deposit funds, and messaging functionality outside of peer-to-peer payments — meaning you could chat with family and friends directly through the app’s user interface.

PayPal hadn’t yet announced its plans to include a messaging component until now, but the feature makes sense in terms of how people often combine chat and peer-to-peer payments today. For example, someone may want to make a personal request for the funds instead of just sending an automated request through an app. Or, after receiving payment, a user may want to respond with a “thank you,” or other acknowledgement. Currently, these conversations take place outside of the payment app itself on platforms like iMessage. Now, that could change.

“We think that’s going to drive a lot of engagement on the platform,” said Schulman. “You don’t have to leave the platform to message back and forth.”

With the increased user engagement, the company expects to see a related bump in average revenue per active account.

Schulman also hinted at “additional crypto capabilities,” which were not detailed. However, PayPal earlier this month increased the crypto purchase limit from $20,000 to $100,000 for eligible PayPal customers in the U.S., with no annual purchase limit. The company also this year made it possible for consumers to check out at millions of online businesses using their cryptocurrencies, by first converting the crypto to cash then settling with the merchant in U.S. dollars.

Though the app’s code is now complete, Schulman said the plan is to continue to iterate on the product experience, noting that the initial version will not be “the be-all and end-all.” Instead, the app will see steady releases and new functionality on a quarterly basis.

However, he did say that early on, the new features would include the high-yield savings, improved bill pay with a better user experience and more billers and aggregators, as well as early access to direct deposit, budgeting tools, and the new two-way messaging feature.

To integrate all the new features into the super app, PayPal will undergo a major overhaul of its user interface.

“Obviously, the [user experience] is being redesigned,” Schulman noted. “We’ve got rewards and shopping. We’ve got a whole giving hub around crowdsourcing, giving to charities. And then, obviously, Buy Now, Pay Later will be fully integrated into it…The last time I counted, it was like 25 new capabilities that we’re going to put into the super app,” he said.

The digital wallet app will also be personalized to the end user, so no two apps are the same. This will be done using both A.I. and machine learning capabilities to  “enhance each customer’s experiences and opportunities,” said Schulman.

PayPal delivered an earnings beat in the second quarter with $6.24 billion in revenue, versus the $6.27 billion Wall St. expected, and earnings per share of $1.15 versus the $1.12 expected. Total payment volume from merchant customers also jumped 40% to $311 billion, while analysts had projected $295.2 billion. But the company’s stock slipped due to a lowered outlook for Q3, impacted by eBay’s transition to its own managed payments service.

In addition, PayPal gained 11.4 million net new active accounts in the quarter, to reach 403 million total active accounts.

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Spotify’s Clubhouse rival, Greenroom, tops 140K installs on iOS, 100K on Android – TechCrunch

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Spotify’s recently launched live audio app and Clubhouse rival, Spotify Greenroom, has a long road ahead of it if it wants to take on top social audio platforms like Clubhouse, Airtime, Spoon and others, not to mention those from top social networks, like Twitter and Facebook. To date, the new Greenroom app has only been downloaded a total of 141,000 times on iOS, according to data from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower. This includes downloads from its earlier iteration, Locker Room — an app Spotify acquired to make its move into live audio.

On Android, Google Play data indicates the app has been installed over 100,000 times, but Sensor Tower cannot yet confirm this figure.

For comparison, Clubhouse today has 30.2 million total installs, 18.7 million of which are on iOS, Sensor Tower says.

Other top audio apps include Airtime, with 11.4 million iOS installs, out of a total of 14.3 million (including Android); and Spoon, with 7.6 million iOS installs, out of a total of  27.3 million.

International apps like UAE’s Yalla and China’s Lizhi are massive, as well, with the former sporting 48.1 total installs, 3.8 million of which are on iOS. The latter has 29.5+ million total installs, but only a handful on iOS.

There are other newcomers that have managed to stake smaller claims in the social audio space, too, including Fishbowl (759,000 total installs), Cappuccino (497,000 installs), Riff (339,000 installs) and Sonar (154,000 installs.)

Image Credits: Sensor Tower. The firm analyzed 34 social audio apps. The chart shows those with the most installs.  

Spotify Greenroom’s launch last month, meanwhile, seems to have attracted only a small fraction of Spotify’s larger user base, which has now grown to 365 million monthly active users.

The majority of Greenroom’s installs — around 106,000 — took place after Greenroom’s official launch on July 16, 2021 through July 25, 2021, Sensor Tower says. Counting only its Greenroom installs, the app is ranked at No. 12 among social audio apps. It follows Tin Can, which gained 127,000 installs since launching in early March.

Because Greenroom took over Locker Room’s install base, some portion of Greenroom’s total iOS installs (141K) included downloads that occurred when the app was still Locker Room. But that number is fairly small. Sensor Tower estimates Locker Room saw only around 35,000 total iOS installs to date. That includes the time frame of October 26, 2020 — the month when the sports chat app launched to the public — up until the day before Greenroom’s debut (July 15, 2021).

We should also point out that downloads are not the same thing as registered users, and are far short of active users. Many people download a new app to try it, but then abandon it shortly after downloading it, or never remember to open it at all.

That means the number of people actively using Greenroom at this time, is likely much smaller that these figures indicate.

Spotify declined to comment on third-party estimates.

While Sensor Tower looked at competition across social audio apps on the app stores, Spotify’s competition in the live audio market won’t be limited to standalone apps, of course.

Other large tech platforms have more recently integrated social audio into their apps, too, including Facebook (Live Audio Rooms), Twitter (Spaces), Discord (Stage Channels) and trading app Public. A comparison with Greenroom here is not possible, as these companies would have to disclose how many of their active users are engaging with live audio, and they have not yet done so.

Despite what may be a slower uptake, Greenroom shouldn’t be counted out yet. The app is brand-new, and has time to catch up if all goes well. (And if the market for live audio, in general, continues to grow — even though the height of Covid lockdowns, which prompted all this live audio socializing in the first place, seems to have passed.)

Spotify’s success or failure with live audio will be particularly interesting to watch given the potential for the company to cross-promote live audio shows, events, and artist-produced content through its flagship streaming music application. What sort of programming Greenroom may later include is still unknown, however.

Following Spotify’s acquisition of Locker Room maker Betty Labs, the company said it would roll out programmed content related to music, culture, and entertainment, in addition to sports. It also launched a Creator Fund to help fuel the app with new content. 

But so far, Spotify hasn’t given its users a huge incentive to visit Greenroom.

The company, during its Q2 2021 earnings, explained why. It said it first needed to get Greenroom stabilized for a “Spotify-sized audience,” which it why it only soft-launched the app in June. Going forward, Spotify says there will be “more tie-ins” with the main Spotify app, but didn’t offer any specifics.

“Obviously we’ll leverage our existing distribution on Spotify,” noted Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. “But this feels like a great way to learn, experiment and iterate, much faster than if we had to wait for a full on integration into the main app,” he added.

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Google unveils its proposed ‘Safety Section’ for apps on Google Play – TechCrunch

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In the wake of Apple’s advances into consumer privacy with initiatives like App Tracking Transparency and App Store privacy labels, Google recently announced its own plans to introduce a new “safety section” on Google Play that offers more information about the data apps collect and share, and other security and privacy details. Today, the company is sharing for the first time what the new section’ user interface will look like, along with other requirements for developers.

In May, Google explained the safety section would be designed to easily communicate to users how apps are handling their data, so they could make informed choices. It said app developers would need to disclose to users whether their app uses security practices like data encryption, whether it follows Google Play’s Families policy for apps aimed at kids, whether users have a choice in data sharing, whether the app’s safety section had been verified by a third party, and if the app allowed users to request data deletion at the time of uninstall, among other things.

In the user interface concept Google debuted today, developers are now able to see how this feature will look to the end user.

Image Credits: Google

In the safety section, users will be able to see the developer’s explanation of what data the app collects followed by those other details, each with their own icon to serve as a visual indicator.

When users tap into the summary, they’ll be able to then see other details like what data is collected or shared — like location, contacts, personal information (e.g., name, email address), financial information and more.

They’ll also be able to see how the data is used — for app functionality, personalization, etc. — and whether data collection is optional. 

Image Credits: Google

Google says it wants to give developers plenty of time to prepare for these Play Store changes which is why it’s now sharing more information about the data type definitions, user journey and policy requirements of the new feature. 

It notes that all developers will have to provide a privacy policy by April 2022. Before, only apps that collected personal and sensitive user data were required to do so. Developers will also be required to share accurate and complete information about all the data in their safety section, including how it’s used by the app’s third-party libraries and SDKs. This is in line with what Apple demands for its apps.

Image Credits: Google

In October 2021, developers will be able to submit their information in the Google Play Console for review, ahead of the planned launch of the safety section in Google Play, which is scheduled for the first quarter of 2022.

The company also notes it’s offering some buffer time after the section’s launch before apps must have their safety section approved by Google. However, the company says apps will have to be approved by Q2 2022 or risk having their app submissions or app updates rejected. And if an app doesn’t provide an approved safety section, the app will say “No information available.”

The change will help to highlight how many active developers are present on Google Play, as those will be the ones who will adopt the new policy and showcase how their apps collect and use data.

The question that remains is how stringent Google will be about enforcing its new guidelines and how carefully apps will be reviewed. One interesting note here is that conscientious developers will be able to submit their safety section for a third-party review and then be able to promote that to users concerned app data privacy and security.

This could help to address some potential criticism that these safety sections aren’t factual. That’s been a problem for Apple since the launch of its App Store privacy labels, in fact. The Washington Post discovered that a number of apps were displaying false information, making them less helpful to the users whose data they aimed to protect.

When reached for comment, however, Google declined to share more details about how the third-party verification process will work.

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