On Monday, Instagram said that its co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger left the company, leaving the future of the photo sharing app in the hands of Facebook’s executives.
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This was a largely unexpected departure. Even though it is not uncommon for founders to depart in the aftermath of an acquisition, Instagram’s founding duo have long been an exception to this rule. According to Bloomberg’s reports, there was a falling out between the duo and Facebook’s Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg. He has not addressed such claims and has wished them well in their future entrepreneurial endeavours.
“I’ve learned a lot working with them for the past 6 years and have really enjoyed it. I wish them all the best and I’m looking forward to seeing what they build next”
Sources indicate this has been conducive to Facebook’s objectives as it has sought to consolidate control of both WhatsApp and Instagram. Sites like these, who had long been given independence to run their own respective mediums, have now been subjected to the wide-reaching arm of Facebook. Just recently, Zuckerberg’s associate Chris Cox, who leads product development for the Facebook app, now has oversight over WhatsApp and Instagram and Adam Mosseri, who has overseen Facebook’s news feed and spent years working alongside Zuckerberg, is now Instagram’s head of product.
Instagram’s integration with Facebook’s initiatives and brands is hardly a new phenomenon and plays an integral role in Instagram’s successful social media rise.
Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger had first met at Stanford University before eventually forming Instagram in 2010 and selling it to Facebook in 2012 for an estimated USD$715 million.
Since then the app has grown in popularity, especially following the addition of their Snapchat-inspired disappearing story function in 2016. Instagram has long been used as an example of “acquisition done right” since it has had relative creative autonomy during its involvement with Facebook. Systrom and Krieger were able to maintain their creative autonomy while simultaneously leaning on Facebook for resources, infrastructure, and engineering talent.
Following the WhatsApp debacle, Instagram employees are now nervous that a similar takeover will occur with their group, wherein the lose creative independence. The company has also started mentioning Instagram more frequently and has often taken credit for its successes, much to the chagrin of Instagram’s original team.
Given recent events, Instagram is a bigger asset to Facebook than ever before. With a database of over 2.2 billion profiles, Facebook has almost exhausted the number of possible future users, and can only push so much advertising into its news feed. Instagram attracts a large swath of younger users who play a vital role in Facebook’s growth. While Facebook has been marred by privacy scandals, fake news, and election interference, Instagram’s brand has been left relatively unscathed, continuing to add more and more users in recent months.
Right now, Instagram is on track to produce a quarter of Facebooks revenue by 2020, accounting for around USD$20 billion in total profits.
So as Instagram’s founders leave, it only solidifies Facebook’s future stronghold over Instagram’s future initiatives. A new leader will not be able to keep the same balance as the founders once did and may makes changes that are a benefit to Facebook but a detriment to Instagram’s unique qualities.