New Direction for Facebook?

Social networking has long been predicated on people sharing their status updates, photos and messages with the world. Now Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, plans to start shifting people toward private conversations and away from public broadcasting.

Mr. Zuckerberg, who runs Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, on Wednesday expressed his intentions to change the essential nature of social media. Instead of encouraging public posts, he said he would focus on private and encrypted communications, in which users’ message mostly smaller groups of people they know. Unlike publicly shared posts that are kept as users’ permanent records, the communications could also be deleted after a certain period of time.

“I don’t view this as replacing the public platform. Facebook and Instagram will continue to get more important,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. But “there is as rich of a platform to develop around the intimate and private communications as there is around the more public one.”

Facebook’s plans could intensify the battle among tech giants to score user loyalty through messaging. Apple Inc. has leaned on its encrypted iMessage service to retain iPhone users over the years, and Alphabet Inc. has pushed to keep pace by beefing up the text-messaging service on its Android operating system, though it isn’t automatically encrypted.

Snap Inc.’s disappearing-messages app Snapchat developed a following particularly among young people in part because it offered the type of intimate communications Mr. Zuckerberg is now embracing. Mr. Zuckerberg likened one-to-one and small-group communications to conversations in someone’s living room that deserve absolute privacy, as opposed to discussions in the town square. Facebook wouldn’t be able to read messages that are end-to-end encrypted, nor could advertisers mine their contents to target users.


Todd “Bubba” Horwitz