Mark Zuckerberg's new goal is to build a separate "privacy-focused" network, in addition to Facebook and Instagram.
The billionaire CEO published a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday in which he outlined a vision for the future of the social network focused on encrypted private chats and disappearing messages. The idea is to connect Facebook's WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram messaging services into a single platform where among other things users can call one another, share disappearing stories, and make business payments, Zuckerberg wrote.
The announcement was surprising, not only because Facebook has a less-than-stellar reputation for protecting user data, but also because historically Facebook's business model has relied on persuading people to share their information publicly.
Facebook made more than $55 billion in revenue in 2018, nearly all of it from selling advertising to brands and businesses. Facebook is extremely appealing to advertisers because it allows them to target customers very narrowly--for example, Millennial soccer moms who are first-time homeowners and work in education. Facebook knows this about its users because of the information they've shared publicly, as well as from a few other tools.
However, it's unclear how the new pivot to privacy might affect Facebook's ability to offer these hyper-specific profiles to advertisers. In other words, if you can't see what users are sharing with one another, how will you know if they are soccer moms or not?
If you advertise your business on Facebook or plan to in the future, Zuckerberg's announcement raises several other important questions. Here are the issues you need to track as the company moves forward:
- Will businesses have profiles on the new privacy-focused network?
- How and where exactly will advertisers reach their customers in the network?
- How is Facebook going to tackle "user discovery," or the ability for people to discover new brands and products?
- As the company busies itself building out the new network, will it continue to provide the same level of support to businesses using Facebook and Instagram?
- Will users want the new platform?
Few details are available yet, and many more questions are sure to arise. Zuckerberg told Wired on Wednesday that with less information Facebook's filtering systems may become "somewhat less effective." Still, he added, the company doesn't use the content of messages to target ads anyway, so the change is not "really going to hurt ads that much."