On Monday night, Kevin Systrom, CEO of the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app, announced that he and fellow cofounder Mike Krieger were departing the social media firm. His statement came after a report from The New York Times that the duo had quit, and Bloomberg subsequently reported that the move came "after growing tensions with [Facebook's] Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg over the direction of the product."
Krieger and Systrom together founded Instagram in 2010, and it was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion in 2012.
The news comes following months of turmoil and scandals for Facebook, from Cambridge Analytica's misappropriation of tens of millions of Facebok users' data to sustained fallout from the spread of Russian propaganda during the 2016 election. Instagram has thus far been a bright spot in Facebook's portfolio, largely (though not entirely) untainted by controversies — but the cofounder team's departures raises questions about the direction and future of the wildly popular app.
Reached for comment by Business Insider, an Instagram spokesperson provided a link to a statement from Systrom in which he said they both plan "on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again." The NYT reported that the pair will leave in the "coming weeks," and will take some time off after their departure.
Systrom is currently the CEO of Instagram, while Krieger serves as its CTO. It's not yet known who will fill their roles.
In recent months, Facebook has integrated its executive bench more closely into Instagram. In May 2018, Facebook reshuffled its executive team, making Chris Cox — formerly the head of the core Facebook app — the company's chief product officer, responsible for Instagram and Facebook's other apps. And Adam Mosseri, formerly the VP of News Feed at Facebook, was made Instagram's new head of product.
The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, also reported that Systrom and Krieger had "clashed" with Facebook's leadership — specifically over "Instagram's autonomy" — and that when Mosseri was reassigned Facebook execs were expecting the pair to leave.
Earlier this year, the cofounder of another Facebook-acquired app left the Silicon Valley tech giant. Jan Koum, cofounder of WhatsApp, the encrypted messaging app Facebook bought $19 billion, left Facebook in April 2018, reportedly due to tensions over efforts to weaken the app's security. And back in March 2018, as the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, another WhatsApp cofounder, Brian Acton, urged his followers to "delete Facebook."
In a statement, Zuckerberg said: "Kevin and Mike are extraordinary product leaders and Instagram reflects their combined creative talents. I've learned a lot working with them for the past six years and have really enjoyed it. I wish them all the best and I'm looking forward to seeing what they build next."
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