In a rare shake-up of Facebook’s highest ranks, the company will shuffle chief technology officers next year, replacing existing CTO Mike Schroepfer with Andrew Bosworth, a longtime Facebook executive.
Bosworth had been concentrating on Facebook’s hardware business—its Portal video-chat tablet and VR headsets—and recently took charge of Facebook’s efforts to develop a metaverse, a more immersive digital world that’s become a top focus for CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “This is all foundational to our broader efforts helping to build the metaverse, and I’m excited about the future of this work under Boz’s leadership,” Zuckerberg says in a press release announcing the changes.
Schroepfer, meanwhile, will become Facebook’s first Senior Fellow, a position involving talent recruitment and a small set of projects to oversee.
The move comes at what seems like yet another stark inflection point for the company. Zuckerberg wants to focus the business on new projects, most prominently the plan to develop a metaverse using virtual- and augmented-reality technology, and has assumed a new role in the last year as Facebook’s chief evangelist, conducting press interviews about debuting products and upcoming goals.
But the company remains dogged by on-going concerns about how its core Facebook and Instagram operate, particularly for their role in spreading misinformation and other harmful content. Zuckerberg has publicly downplayed these elements even as lawmakers have threatened to bring regulation over Facebook and a new Wall Street Journal series showed the extent of the problems.
Elevating Bosworth is a clear signal that Zuckerberg remains determined to keep to this path. Bosworth himself has been a stout defender of Zuckerberg and the company’s attitude. According to a 2018 Buzzfeed story, Bosworth authored a detailed internal memo years earlier detailing the risks Facebook faced while defending the type of data collection that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Schroepfer’s reputation was at least somewhat different inside the company. On Twitter, Samidh Chakrabarti, the man who ran one of the Facebook teams chiefly responsible for policing misinformation until this month, wrote this about Schroepfer’s departure, referring to him by his nickname, Schrep:
Bosworth and Zuckerberg are long-time compatriots. They met at Harvard when Zuckerberg took a computer science class where Bosworth served as a teaching fellow. (“Facebook came out on February 12, which was two weeks after finals ended… so he was clearly working on Facebook instead of studying for my class,” Bosworth recounted to a Harvard interviewer.) After a stint at Microsoft, Bosworth joined Facebook in 2006 as one of its first engineers. He built many of Facebook’s initial products, nearly all of which still form the app’s underpinning: NewsFeed, Messenger and Groups.
When he began at Facebook, the site had 5 million users, roughly a quarter of 1% of Facebook’s current rolls. At the start, he told the Harvard interviewer, “we all built a ton of different features all the time. We were constantly thinking of things we’d like to try, and some of them worked and some didn’t.”