Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and co-founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Oculus Connect 5 product launch event in San Jose, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. Facebook unveiled a wireless virtual-reality headset called Oculus Quest, an attempt to help popularize the developing technology with a more mainstream audience. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
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Mark Zuckerberg's 3,220-word missive on the future of Facebook, posted on Wednesday, signals a radical shift for the social network that could turn the business on its head.

Here's the key par that explains the Facebook chief's intentions in rearchitecting his services:

“We plan to build this the way we've developed WhatsApp: focus on the most fundamental and private use case — messaging — make it as secure as possible, and then build more ways for people to interact on top of that, including calls, video chats, groups, stories, businesses, payments, commerce, and ultimately a platform for many other kinds of private services.”

He would be “building a privacy-focused messaging and social networking platform”, he said — note how messaging now comes first in that phrase. So, that little messenger box you may be used to on, sidelined by your news feed, will in future be the focus for your interactions.

“In a few years, I expect future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network,” he said.

In addition, he detailed how there would be interoperability between Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram's Direct messaging. Facebook would use end-to-end encryption and not store keys nor store data in countries where it may not be secure. Content would automatically expire or be archived over time. 

There are so many implications here for users, advertisers, publishers, regulators and Facebook's business model, but one thing that leaps out is that Mr Zuckerberg appears to be behaving responsibly here, yet his solution seems designed to allow the social network to avoid future responsibilities.

Making data disappear by default, breaking down the influence of the news feed, making interactions secure and private all reduce the need for Facebook to moderate and monitor its vast audience and those who seek to influence it. Through the devolution of shifting the service to millions of conversations and groups, he is giving back power to the user and reducing his own accountability for what goes on. Lawmakers and regulators may have something to say about that.

The business challenge of moving to become more of a Chinese WeChat is the possible narrowing of the opportunity to monetise, as Facebook limits its territorial expansion and the access it has to the habits and content of its users.

This conscious limiting of its influence all represents a huge gamble, but, to paraphrase an old Zuckerberg saying, Facebook seems to be moving fast to put the brake on things.

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