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Facebook launches blockchain division following management shake-up

Facebook launches blockchain division following management shake-up

Shake-up appears to consolidate power at the sprawling internet company

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

Credit: Reuters

Facebook chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg has ordered one of the biggest management shake-ups in the history of the social network, giving more responsibility to his chief product officer (CPO) and launching a blockchain division.

The shake-up appeared to consolidate power at the sprawling internet company, although it included no firings or outside hires and did not change the role of either Zuckerberg or chief operating officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg.

Chris Cox, the CPO in charge of the flagship Facebook service, will now also oversee the widely used services Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, the company said.

WhatsApp has been given a relatively free hand since 2014, when Facebook bought it for US$22 billion, but in recent months its two co-founders have announced their resignations, opening the door to closer integration.

Two other executives, chief technology officer (CTO) Mike Schroepfer and vice president of growth Javier Olivan, will oversee other consolidated divisions, one related to "new platforms and infrastructure" and another for centralised services such as the ads system.

Facebook confirmed the staff moves, which were first reported by the tech news website Recode. The company declined to comment on the reasons behind the shake-up.

David Marcus, the head of Messenger for the past four years, is leaving that role to set up a group to explore how to use blockchain technology across Facebook, he said in a post on Facebook.

Blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, could have other business applications as a ledger for recording transactions, although Marcus said Facebook was "starting from scratch."

Stan Chudnovsky, who has been Messenger's product chief, will succeed Marcus as head of the service, Facebook said.

Chris Daniels, who has been in charge of a Facebook effort to expand internet access, will be the head of WhatsApp, succeeding Jan Koum, the WhatsApp co-founder who said last week he was leaving the company.

A second WhatsApp co-founder, Brian Acton, left in September to start a foundation.

Messenger and WhatsApp each has more than 1 billion users, making them among the most widely used smartphone apps globally.

Kevin Weil, head of product at Instagram, is leaving that job to join Facebook's blockchain division, and Adam Mosseri, head of the Facebook News Feed, will succeed Weil at Instagram, the company said.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


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