Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook profile that within a few years direct messaging would dwarf discussion on the traditional, open platform of Facebook's news feed, where public posts can go viral across the world.
"People are more cautious of having a permanent record of what they've shared", the 34-year-old executive said, adding there is "an opportunity to build a simpler platform that's focused on privacy first". This is something that has been sorely lacking from the platform as now constituted.
Zuckerberg also pointed to the success of private messaging, disappearing content and small group chats, saying these are "by far the fastest growing areas of online communication". This means that members will have a say in whom they communicate with, and any conversations will be known only to those who are members of a particular group.
Zuckerberg's announcement confirmed a recent story in The New York Times noting that Facebook was integrating the infrastructures of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp in order to enable end-to-end encryption across its network of properties.
People want to be able to choose which service they use to communicate with people. This will prevent older messages from coming back to haunt members.
Regulators have called for Facebook to increase moderation of user content, but more encryption would make it hard to view and track problematic posts.
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These "tradeoffs" include the possibility of Facebook getting banned in countries like Russian Federation and Vietnam whose law enforcement agencies do not allow encryption, and also demand that data be stored in local servers within the country.
Zuckerberg said he wanted to develop the social media network into one that is focused around privacy, reducing permanence and secure data storage.
This change is because he now believes "the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure".
Facebook says it plans to move to encrypted, auto-deleting messages on its services by default as part of a broader strategic shift - even if the changes mean some countries decide to ban its service. Greenfield says that this space is now controlled by Apple's iMessage and Snapchat. Public social networks will continue to be very important in people's lives. If the technology behind the three apps is commingled, then Facebook could argue with regulators that a sale is impossible.
Tencent Holdings Ltd's WeChat app has shown how a messaging service can generate revenue through not only displaying ads, but also being a marketplace for games, merchandise and services such as taxi rides. "Looking at the future of the internet and privacy, I believe one of the most important decisions we'll make is where we'll build data centres and store people's sensitive data". "Zuckerberg has made his money by performing a sort of arbitrage between how much privacy Facebook's 2 billion users think they are giving up and how much he has been able to sell to advertisers", he continued. "That's a tradeoff we're willing to make", he continued.
"Such a to-be-determined business model is likely going to rely on Facebook's ability to enable relations and transactions between consumers and brands", said Thomas Husson, vice president-principal analyst, Forrester.