mark zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg: The Future is Private at Facebook

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Should we be surprised about Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote address at F8 today? Let me preface this for a moment. Zuckerberg went on record and indicated that privacy will now become the defining pillar of the way that they do business. So when I ask if this is something that we find surprising, I simply mean – do we believe in his ability to pull this off? This statement is an incredibly large shift in the vision that we saw presented last month. In that statement, Facebook announced that they would be moving away from the News Feed and public posts and towards a “privacy-focused communication platform”. And, to be clear, that isn’t the same as privacy itself.

Zuckerberg’s opening statement went a little something like this:

“The future is private. 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.”

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook

Why are we going to start to have this conversation today? Shouldn’t “we” have been having this conversation months, if not years ago? I mean, there are too many privacy and security infractions over the last year to even list, so why does he think that today is the best time to have this conversation? I guess I’m a little floored by his boldness, which highlights the fact that he has had no clue that privacy is a value that people hold dearly.

As part of this effort, however, Facebook has unveiled an interesting redesign of its main app and website. Its cleaner, and less cluttered. And, well, doesn’t really look as much like the Facebook that we’ve grown to know over the years. The most interesting part is the fact that they have made the Facebook Watch and Marketplace tabs taking on a more prominent role in the menu bar. As Facebook suggested last month, they have plans to bring together Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp, which sounds a lot like they’re trying to shift the focus away from the main Facebook app. Is that because the main app is surrounded by controversy? More plainly put, are we looking at a shift because it will provide a streamlined service to users, or is Facebook trying to cut back on the heat they’re taking?

Zuckerberg continues:

“In the history of Facebook, there have been four major versions of the product so far and this is the fifth. So we’re calling this FB 5.”

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook

That’s it? There’s only been four “major” versions, and the platform has been around since, what, 2005? I mean, when car manufacturers stop putting out new models, after a few years, they scrap that particular line. So why hasn’t Facebook been scrapped yet?

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. Are your eyes rolling as hard as mine? Look, all Facebook wants to do is to continually apologize for doing the same messed up thing over and over again. They don’t take privacy seriously. They never have, and screaming it until you’re blue in the face doesn’t mean that it will actually happen. In fact, Zuckerberg addresses this in his keynote address:

“Now look, I get that a lot of people aren’t sure we’re serious about this. 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. This isn’t just about building new products. It’s a major shift in how we run this company. We believe that for the future, people want a privacy-focused social platform.”

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook

And yes – that’s exactly what people have been telling Zuckerberg for quite some time now. Whether or not he’s able to roll this out is another matter. Stay tuned for more on how this plays out in the months and the years to come.