Chris Cox, the former chief product officer of Facebook and one of the social media giant’s earliest engineers, is returning to the company more than a year after he left amid disagreements with CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“I’m returning to Facebook as our Chief Product Officer,” Cox wrote in a Facebook post. “Facebook and our products have never been more relevant to our future. It’s also the place I know best, and the best place for me to roll up my sleeves and dig in to help.”
Cox’s return is a seismic event for Facebook. Cox was instrumental in developing News Feed and, in his final year, oversaw Facebook’s entire family of apps including WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. He was also a close friend of Zuckerberg’s and a member of his inner circle.
There was also speculation among Facebook insiders and the tech press that Cox was being groomed to one day take over for Zuckerberg as CEO — speculation that will undoubtedly return now that Cox is back at the company.
Cox left Facebook in March 2019 after Zuckerberg announced a plan to integrate Facebook’s family of apps, and to shift the company’s focus away from public sharing to private and encrypted communications — a shift that is still playing out to this day.
Cox disagreed with that direction. “We are turning a new page in our product direction,” he wrote at the time. “This will be a big project and we will need leaders who are excited to see the new direction through.”
In announcing his return to Facebook on Thursday, Cox alluded to the challenges facing the world today, including “a public health crisis, an economic crisis, and now a reckoning of racial injustice.”
“I reached out to Mark over a month ago and told him I’d be interested to help,” Cox wrote. “I’ve been following Facebook and I’ve been encouraged by progress on so many of the big issues facing us. In the past month the world has grown more chaotic and unstable, which has only given me more resolve to help out. Our most important decisions and products are ahead of us.”
Cox will officially return to the company on June 22.