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Facebook Loses Two Top Executives, Including Chief Product Officer Chris Cox

WhatsApp VP Chris Daniels also to depart social network, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg says

Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox — one of the driving forces behind the social network’s News Feed — and WhatsApp vice president Chris Daniels are leaving the company, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said in a blog post on Thursday afternoon.

Cox’s departure is an especially significant one for Facebook. He joined Facebook in 2005 as one of its first software engineers and eventually became one Zuckerberg’s most trusted executives within the company. His ascension at the Menlo Park, California-based company mirrored its rise from a popular niche social media platform for college students to one of the most dominant tech companies in the world.

“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,” Zuckerberg said of Cox. “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.”

Cox and Daniels both left the company of their own volition, Zuckerberg said. Their decision comes a week after Zuckerberg outlined a new “privacy first” mantra for Facebook, including a plan to better connect its three primary messaging services — WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. The plan was met with some disdain from employees asked to work on the project, according to The New York Times.

“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,” Cox said in a post on his Facebook page on Thursday afternoon. “This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.”

Daniels, meanwhile, had been the head of  WhatsApp since co-founder Jan Koum left last May. Will Cathcart, who previously ran the Facebook app, will replace Daniels, Zuckerberg said. Zuckerberg called Daniels “one of the clearest and most principled business thinkers I’ve met” in his note on his exit.

Zuckerberg said Facebook doesn’t have someone lined up to immediately replace Cox. As part of an executive reshuffling, Zuckerberg said Fidji Simo will be elevated to the head of the Facebook app. Simo joined the company in 2011 and previously led its charge in video and monetization, where she played an influential role in rolling out Facebook Live and autoplay video in News Feed.

“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,” Zuckerberg said of Simo.

Facebook shares dropped 1.6 percent in after-hours trading to $167.39 per share.