Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced sweeping changes to Facebook’s services on Wednesday, saying in a blog post that he would spend the next several years reorienting the company’s apps toward encryption and privacy.
The moves — outlined in broad strokes rather than as a set of specific product changes — would shift the company’s focus from a social network where people broadcast information to large groups of people, to one where people communicate with smaller groups and their content disappears after a short period of time, Zuckerberg said.
Facebook’s core social network is structured around public conversation, but it also owns private messaging services WhatsApp and Messenger, which are closed networks.
The announcement, in the midst of a crisis that Facebook is facing over the loss public trust, comes with major risks and is also likely to be treated skeptically. Zuckerberg has promised to protect privacy before, but the company has landed itself in controversy after controversy. Many governments also oppose encryption, and Facebook may end up getting blocked in some foreign countries as a result of the move, a risk Zuckerberg acknowledged in his post.
Describing the changes using the metaphor of transforming Facebook from a town square into a living room, Zuckberberg wrote, “As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms. Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally, which is why we build social networks.”