Instagram's Co-Founders Quit Amid Reports of Tension with Facebook
Instagram is arguably the last fun social media platform, where pretty pictures of happy people meld with celebrity gossip and good memes. Its co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are leaving it behind.
The New York Times reports the two founders announced their resignation from Facebook Inc. Monday, six years after the social networking giant purchased Instagram for a tidy sum of $1 billion. Zuckerberg bid them adieu with kind words, wishing them “all the best and I’m looking forward to seeing what they build next."
That's lovely. But according to other reports, not all is fine in Silicon Valley.
Zuckerberg, it seems, can be a bit of a micro-manager. When Facebook first purchased Instagram, both parties pledged to maintain the independence of the two services from one another, which, as Bloomberg reports, was mostly successful—Systrom and Krieger were allowed to develop and maintain their platform using Facebook's resources for the better part of their tenure. In fact, you would be forgiven if you had no idea Facebook even owned Instagram. But recently, Zuckerberg's interest piqued. Facebook's public image was in the toilet—more on that in a moment—and he reportedly increased his involvement in the platform. Sources told Bloomberg that Facebook began mentioning Instagram more during business calls; in one call, Zuckerberg implied the phot0-sharing app's impressive growth could be credited to Facebook. He also wanted "content production on Instagram to flow to Facebook," a source told TechCrunch, meaning closer integration between the two platforms. Instagram's co-founders resisted.
This has happened to Zuck before. Jan Koum, the founder of WhatsApp, a messaging app acquired by Facebook in 2014, quit the company in April. He reportedly did not like how Facebook wanted to handle users' private data, among other disagreements over the business model. His co-founder Brian Acton had left in November of last year, almost immediately dumping $50 million into a rival app called Signal that focuses on privacy. He also supported a #DeleteFacebook campaign after the Cambridge Analytica fall-out. And Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, a VR company purchased by Facebook in 2014, left his role in March 2017. His departure was marred by controversy—including his support of right-wing groups—but he later warned" be careful who has control" at Facebook.
With Systrom and Krieger gone, Zuckerberg gets to name a new head of Instagram and take the platform in any direction he desires. Its most hated feature, the algorithmic news feed that replaced the original chronological feed, has been revamped. It seems what is left is to more closely align the Facebook and Instagram experience for users. In other words, the stuff Systrom and Krieger were resistant to.
Facebook is not fun. It's where you go to mindlessly watch bad social videos, fight about politics with your relatives in Arizona, and potentially fall into a fake news trap. You may have sacrificed your personal data to it. You probably don't trust it, or Zuckerberg, anymore. Pew Research Center shows Facebook's usership has flat-lined, while Instagram is still steadily growing. Facebook is the app of the olds, while Instagram is fresh enough for new generations. How does the Instagram experience benefit from melding with that?
When Instagram's co-founders announced their resignation Monday, they said were "taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again." Hopefully that exploration will lead them to create another brilliant new social media app, where users can enjoy themselves without fearing for their privacy or the interference of the dreaded algorithm.
In their original statement, Systrom and Krieger also made no mention of Zuckerberg, as Business Insider pointed out. A later Instagram post from Systrom repeated it almost verbatim, except for a diplomatic addition highlighting the business lessons they'd learned from Zuckerberg and other Facebook bigwigs. Take that as you will. To us, it seems the rats are abandoning the ship, and leaving plenty of warnings in their wake.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.