Chris Cox.
Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has seen plenty of internal rearranging over the past couple of years, as executives have left the company or moved around it into new roles. The latest, and perhaps most surprising, exit happened today when Facebook announced that Chris Cox, the company’s chief product officer, was on his way out. In addition to being one of Facebook’s earliest employees and a pivotal decision maker on core products like the News Feed, Cox was also widely assumed to be next in line should Mark Zuckerberg ever step away from his perch.

“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 wrote in a message to his employees today. “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.”

Fidji Simo will take over as the head of the Facebook app. In addition to Cox’s departure, Chris Daniels, the head of WhatsApp, is also leaving the company. He will be replaced by Will Cathcart. The leaders of each of Facebook’s main products (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp) will now report directly to Zuckerberg.

Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced a significant strategic shift for the company, focused on integrating all of Facebook’s messaging apps together and bolstering encryption and privacy surrounding them. While that doesn’t mean the News Feed is going away, Cox implied he and Zuckerberg did not see eye to eye on the project in a note to employees. According to Wired, he wrote that, “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.”

Zuckerberg wrote that Cox has been planning to leave for a while, but postponed his exit following everything that went down in 2016.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Presumed Successor Is Leaving Facebook