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Cox’s unexpected departure, which he and Zuckerberg announced in separate Facebook posts on Thursday, comes months after Cox was promoted in a major reorganization. In May last year, Cox was put in charge of Facebook’s “family of apps,” including Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and Facebook itself — which together have over 2.7 billion users worldwide. These apps have been distinct until recently, when Zuckerberg announced plans to unify them with a new focus on privacy.
“It is with great sadness I share with you that after thirteen years, I’ve decided to leave the company,” Cox wrote in his post. “Since I was twenty-three, I’ve poured myself into these walls. This place will forever be a part of me.”
Another longtime executive, Chris Daniels also announced his exit on Thursday. Chris moved upward in the reorganization last May and took over WhatsApp after running Internet.org, the company’s philanthropic project to promote global Internet access.
“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,” Zuckerberg wrote. “As we embark on this next major chapter, Chris has decided now is the time to step back from leading these teams.”
In his blog post, Zuckerberg said Cox had told him several years ago that he planned to move but that Cox decided to hold off on leaving until the company made more progress combating misinformation and Russian interference — controversies that erupted in the wake of the 2016 election.
Zuckerberg said he does not plan to replace Cox. The role of integrating the apps will go to another longtime Zuckerberg deputy and former Head of Growth, Javier Olivan, he said.
Cox, who dropped out of a Stanford University graduate degree program to work with Zuckerberg when the company had just 15 engineers, was widely seen as one of the most popular and capable executives at the social network.
Cox was a sounding board for Zuckerberg on product ideas. He launched Facebook’s flagship scrolling news feed nearly a decade ago and ran human resources before he was promoted to run the Facebook app in 2014.
Cox is one of many senior executives to leave Facebook since the controversies erupted. The company’s Head of Policy Elliot Schrage, its General Counsel Colin Stretch, its Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos, along with the heads of WhatsApp and Instagram and its top communications executive, had all announced their exits from the company in the last few years.
But the highest profile departures, including Cox, are people in Zuckerberg’s inner circle who have been at Facebook since the earliest days of the company and became fabulously wealthy after the social network’s $104 billion public offering.
Cox hinted at the challenges of recent years in his goodbye post. “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,” he wrote. “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.”