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Facebook needs fixing. Zuckerberg says he has a plan

The world's biggest social network has faced seemingly endless privacy, trust and corporate malfeasance scandals. Now it's charting a way out.

Mark Zuckerberg wants to remake Facebook.
James Martin

Mark Zuckerberg gets it. He understands that people don't trust Facebook with their information. He sees that we look at his company with distrust.

"I know that we don't exactly have the strongest reputation on privacy right now, to put it lightly," he told an audience at the social network's annual F8 developer conference in San Jose on Tuesday. He wore an awkward grin.

He also promises things are going to change.

Facebook will reform into a privacy-focused and secure service with "simple, intimate spaces where you have complete confidence that what you say and do is private and and clear control over who you're communicating with," he said.

"This is about building the kind of future that we want to live in," Zuckerberg told the crowd. The company's new mantra will reflect that idea: "The future is private."

Now playing: Watch this: Facebook's Zuckerberg preaches 'The future is private'

The moves mark Facebook's latest efforts to its way out of the years of scandal that has engulfed the company. Privacy gaffes and data leaks, such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, have fueled concerns about the security of the world's largest social network. They's also raised questions about corporate malfeasance among Zuckerberg and his management team. Can we trust Facebook?

So far, users have voted with their time and attention. The result is a resounding yes. Facebook's count of people who log in at least once a month continues to grow, hitting 2.38 billion at the end of March. That's a third of the planet. The company's sales continue to rise, hitting more than $15 billion in March, up 26 percent from the same time a year earlier.

Mark Zuckerberg mapped out Facebook's new efforts at the company's F8 developer conference.

James Martin/CNET

Still, the pressure is mounting. Governments around the world are beginning to investigate Facebook, seeking to regulate the 15-year-old social media giant. In the UK, the government is considering installing its first internet safety czar, with the power to punish Twitter, Google and Facebook for bad behavior. Australia and New Zealand are mulling a ban on "weaponized social media." In the US, the Federal Trade Commission is weighing a potential $5 billion fine against Facebook for its mishandling of users' data.

For Zuckerberg, whose goal last year was to effectively fix Facebook, the problems are only continuing to mount.

"This focus on privacy was something that Facebook needed to do," said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst for eMarketer. "There was really no choice but for them to adapt and adopt this focus."

Still, you'd be forgiven for approaching Zuckerberg with suspicion.

"I get that a lot of people think we're not serious about this," Zuckerberg said. But this is a serious shift, he said. "This is the next chapter."

Meet the new Facebook, same as the old Facebook

In an effort to focus where Facebook is headed, the company deluged conference goers with both new initiatives and updates on existing ones.

The social network is expanding its dating service, launched last year, to 14 more countries including Vietnam, Singapore, Brazil and Chile. The US, the company said, will get it later this year.

Facebook's also expanding its Craigslist-like Marketplace service to make it easier for people to pay one another and ship their goods too. And it's refocusing its core app on groups and stories, the ephemeral in-the-moment posts that disappear from Instagram and Facebook a day after they're published.

The company even announced preorders for its latest virtual reality headsets from its Oculus VR division, which it purchased in 2014 for more than $2 billion. The Oculus Quest and Rift S, both $399 (£399), represent the company's next-generation headsets, and the latest sign Zuckerberg continues to bet on the future despite how mired in the present he is.

Now playing: Watch this: Zuckerberg gives a first look at redesigned Facebook...

Perhaps most dramatic, though, will be a new look for Facebook, coming later this year. The new site will have a more minimalist appearance, which makes today's Facebook seem cluttered and stale. The new look is much more akin to a simple mobile app with a lot of unused space on the screen and bigger icons to click.

"This is the sum of hundreds of details rather than just a few major changes," Zuckerberg said. In other words: It's not just a new coat of paint. But if Zuck and Co. have a vision of where they want Facebook to go, these changes are still baby steps toward that better future.

"I believe that we should be working to build a world where we can be ourselves, and where we can live freely knowing that our private moments are only going to be seen by the people we want," he added. "It we work hard and deliver this vision today, I'll be proud of the difference we've made."

Originally published April 30, 11:44 a.m. PT.
Update, May 1: Adds analyst comment.