Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, co-founders of the massive photo-sharing app, Instagram, are both leaving Facebook.
Back in 2012 Facebook paid $1 billion for the young (two-year-old) platform called Instagram. At the time, this was a lot of money for a social media platform to shell out, however, the deal is now widely viewed in the Silicon Valley as a considerable bargain as it allowed Facebook to absorb one of its biggest potential competitors.
Systrom and Krieger co-founded the image-sharing site back in 2010 and continued to operate the service following its acquisition by Facebook. They announced their departure to Facebook leadership in what appears to be a sudden move on Monday, September 24th, 2018. Systrom said in a blog post that he and Krieger are leaving to “explore our curiosity and creativity again.” He continued: “Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us, and match that with what the world needs; that’s what we plan to do.” The post itself does not reveal animosity, instead explaining that the pair is excited about the future of Instagram and Facebook. However, the conflict between the two social media powerhouses has been a well-known secret.
The BBC notes that tensions between Systrom and Zuckerberg have been apparent since 2014 when Facebook purchased the popular international chat platform, WhatsApp.
The social network paid $19 billion to acquire the app, and Instagram’s co-founder is rumoured to have been concerned that he sold out too soon. This anxiety was justified when he saw that another app, Snapchat, which Facebook had failed to acquire, prospered greatly without the massive social media platform backing it. “The irony is that Kevin built the more successful product,” one insider claimed. Some sources state that Systrom fought hard to maintain Instagram’s independence and separation from Facebook, which resulted in a domino effect among the staff of both companies and hindered collaboration between the two platforms. Although he remained Instagram’s frontman at product launches and other public appearances, Systrom’s influence decreased over time as more Facebook executives were transferred to the photo-sharing service, “Kevin maybe didn’t have the fight in him anymore and probably didn’t agree with some of the product decisions,” a source said.
This Has Happened Before
Systrom and Kieger’s departure echoes that of chief executive and co-founder of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, who announced in April that he would be leaving the service that he co-founded in 2009. Koum’s leaving inspired an executive reorganization that saw Zuckerberg tightening the reigns regarding control over operations. Koum and co-founder Brian Acton left the Whatsapp platform earlier this year after bashing heads with Zuckerberg over privacy and data protection following the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Facebook has been under an immense amount of pressure this year regarding the platform’s safeguarding of user data and the abuse of its platforms by individuals wanting to broadcast mostly political fake news. In March of this year, during the week that founder Mark Zuckerberg apologized for the mishandling of a significant data breach, Facebook stock plummeted $58 billion in value.
What Happens Now?
Systrom and Kieger’s departure comes at a time of significant change for Facebook. Several senior executives, including general counsel Colin Stretch, Head of Communications, Elliot Schrage, and Vice-President of Partnerships, Dan Rose left following the long-running issues surrounding fake news and data privacy. They also left at a point where Instagram, and it’s over one billion users, have never been more crucial to Facebook. The rising popularity of the app, especially among younger users, is in direct contrast with Facebook’s stagnant growth in developed markets including North America and Europe. In 2016, Instagram made its most significant change with the introduction of Snapchat-style ‘stories’. This addition has now become one of the platform’s most popular features, with 400 million daily users as of June 2018.
Facebook very purposefully treated Instagram as its own entity, rather than a separate division within the same company, because it was Instagram’s culture that made it such a valuable and worthwhile purchase. Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger were the sole creators of that culture and the overall feel of the app was inherently anti-Facebook in many ways. It lacked the clutter that had made Facebook appear clunky to many users. However, slowly but surely, over the years that cluttered style has seeped its way into Instagram through the algorithmic ordering of the timeline and an overabundance of ads.
With the pair moving on to what is sure to be bigger and better things, the question of who will be taking their place comes to the minds of many dedicated users. A name being thrown around as the possible new boss of Instagram is Adam Mosseri. Currently Head of Product, potentially appointing Mosseri to this new position is worrisome to many loyal Instagram users as he was formerly in charge of Facebook’s Newsfeed, which has been problematic over the years.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has stated that the origination and execution of a successful, innovative app such as Instagram demonstrates Systrom’s and Krieger’s “combined creative talents”. He further says, “I wish them all the best and I’m looking forward to seeing what they build next.”
Systrom stated in his blog post, “We’ve grown from 13 people to over a thousand with offices around the world, all while building products used and loved by a community of over one billion. We’re now ready for our next chapter.”
It is difficult to say for sure what will come of this departure or what it means for the beloved photo-sharing platform to lose the two key figures at its helm. It is not surprising that users are hesitant. As numbers and trust continue to decline amongst Facebook users, Instagram could become the platform’s crucial saving grace. Alternatively, new executive management controlled by those who may not have the platform’s best interests at heart may result in the downfall of a favoured and beloved app.
Only time will tell.