Countless privacy scandals have bogged down Facebook. Just-released research shows a significant drop in users by the millions.

It's the perfect time for Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, to unveil his bold, new direction for the company. In a 3,000-word Facebook note, he laid it all out: "A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking."

He says the company is going all in on privacy.

"As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today's open platforms," Zuckerberg writes.

It's hard to say if Facebook is just reacting to privacy concerns about its platform or if Zuckerberg has had this vision in the works for a while. Either way, here are the highlights of his epic, novel-length vision -- so you can spend a little less time today scrolling on Facebook.

1. Shift the focus of social media from public to private sharing.

Zuckerberg says "private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups" are where the real action is happening online. He compares these digital spaces to living rooms versus the town square of public forums. It's more intimate when everyone can't see or hear what you're talking about, and people feel more comfortable being themselves.

2. Make private communication between WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger more seamless.

While some of Facebook's properties connect to each other, you cannot send messages between them. Zuckerberg says the company will focus on making it easier to communicate across the entire Facebook network. "We're focused on making both of these apps faster, simpler, more private, and more secure," he writes.

3. Encrypt messages so no third parties -- not even Facebook -- can see them.

Communicating online comes with a lot of risks. If messages aren't secure, any outsider can get access them. So Zuckerberg says Facebook is working toward end-to-end encryption to keep messages truly private.

"There is a growing awareness that the more entities that have access to your data, the more vulnerabilities there are for someone to misuse it or for a cyber attack to expose it," he says.

But there are also cons to private messaging, mainly that bad actors can misuse it. Zuckerberg specifically calls out child exploitation, terrorism, and extortion. He says that even if Facebook can't see the content in the messages themselves, the company will begin working on "detecting patterns of activity or through other means."

Can Facebook actually pull this off?

Facebook has a history of making broad claims and promises and not always following through. Just days before Zuckerberg wrote this note, yet another Facebook privacy scandal hit the news.

Other news outlets are wondering if this new shift can be profitable for Facebook.

"The Silicon Valley giant, valued at $490 billion, depends on people openly sharing posts to be able to target advertising to them," writes The New York Times. Shifting focus to private messaging actually hurts Facebook's own business model because they can't target those messages with ads. ​The Verge posits that Facebook make a move toward online payments, cryptocurrency, or shopping for revenue.

Published on: Mar 7, 2019