Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he’s committed to turning his company around. Onstage at Facebook’s F8 developer conference, the chief executive said that privacy will be the defining pillar of his social network’s sprawling empire going forward.
His opening statements build on the massive shift in Zuckerberg’s vision for the company that he first outlined early last month when he announced that Facebook would transition away from the News Feed and public posts and toward a “privacy-focused communications platform” that unified its messaging products around concepts like ephemerality and encryption.
“The future is private,” Zuckerberg told the crowd, noting that Facebook’s most dominant vision over the last decade was to build global communities that would bring the world together, for better or worse. “Over time, I believe that a private social platform will be even more important to our lives than our digital town squares. So today, we’re going to start talking about what this could look like as a product, what it means to have your social experience be more intimate, and how we need to change the way we run this company in order to build this.”
As part of the effort, Facebook has unveiled a bold redesign of its main app and its website that’s cleaner and less cluttered and focused on groups and events, with the Facebook Watch and Marketplace tabs also taking on more prominent roles in the menu bar. Further down the line, the goal is to unify Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp while still shifting the main Facebook app away from the News Feed and toward more manageable and privacy-focused interactions.
“In the history of Facebook, there have been four major versions of the product so far and this is the fifth,” Zuckerberg said. “So we’re calling this FB 5.” The mobile redesign is launching today alongside an interactive logo that ditches the blue color scheme. The desktop redesign is coming later. Zuckerberg pledged that his company is different in its product approach now and that, even just a few years ago, it would have likely rolled out all of these changes quickly and without much consideration, choosing instead to iterate as it went. Now, he said, the goal is to build with safety in mind from the onset.
Zuckerberg knows he has a tough sell after what can only be described as a nightmarish couple of years for Facebook. The company has endured scandal after scandal throughout the past 24 months related to its data privacy and security practices and the social network’s role in abetting or promoting election interference, misinformation and fake news, and hate speech and violence all around the globe. As a result, the company’s reputation is in tatters, despite its steady growth. Zuckerberg knows he needs to regain the trust of the public and Facebook’s multi-app user base if the company is to remain the world’s most powerful and pervasive communications platform.
“Now look, I get that a lot of people aren’t sure we’re serious about this,” Zuckerberg said at F8. “We don’t exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly. But I’m committed to doing this well and starting a new chapter for our product.”
He ended his opening remarks with the reassurance that Facebook has a clear idea of where it wants to go and the kinds of products it wants to build for people. “This isn’t just about building new products. It’s a major shift in how we run this company,” Zuckerberg said. “We believe that for the future, people want a privacy-focused social platform. I believe that if we build out a fully encrypted interoperable service… that’s going to be an important contribution to the world.
“This is about building the kind of future we want to live in,” he added. “To build a world where we can be ourselves and live freely and know that our private moments are only going to be seen by the people they want, where we can come together around community and commerce, where we build in the tools that we need to keep us safe from the beginning and prevent harm and we then are able to focus on all the good people are able to do. Both in private and in public, both the living room and the town squares.”