Instagram is the jewel in Facebook’s crown and the latter knows it.
Following the recent news that the founders of Instagram are resigning, Adam Mosseri has been named as the new boss of the photo-sharing app.
With more than 1bn users, and more popular with teens and millennials than Facebook is itself, Instagram is a runaway success and has so far been unblemished by the litany of privacy scandals that have riddled Facebook in the past year.
‘We are thrilled to hand over the reins to a product leader with a strong design background and a focus on craft and simplicity’
– KEVIN SYSTROM AND MIKE KRIEGER
Last week, at the height of their success, Instagram’s two co-founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, announced their resignation from Facebook, saying: “We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again.”
Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 for around $1bn. It quickly emerged in media reports that both Systrom and Krieger had clashed with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg over product changes, including changes to comments and how posts are shared between the photo-sharing app and Facebook.
The news of the Instagram founders leaving came hot on the heels of the departure of the founders of WhatsApp (bought by Facebook in 2014 for $19bn), Brian Acton and Jan Koum, apparently over clashes with Zuckerberg and Sandberg on ideals and principles around privacy and encryption.
Friends in the inner circle
As usual with these announcements of late, the news of Mosseri’s appointment to take the helm of Instagram was all bonhomie.
“We are thrilled to hand over the reins to a product leader with a strong design background and a focus on craft and simplicity, as well as a deep understanding of the importance of community,” Systrom and Krieger said in a blogpost. “These are the values and principles that have been essential to us at Instagram since the day we started, and we’re excited for Adam to carry them forward.”
Mosseri has played a hand in the creation and development of Facebook’s most important products over the last decade. “Adam began his career as a designer, managed his own design consultancy and then joined the Facebook design team in 2008. Since he joined, he moved from design into product management, and spent time working on Mobile, then News Feed and, most recently, we recruited him to Instagram. In his role leading Instagram, Adam will oversee all functions of the business and will recruit a new executive team including a head of engineering, head of product and head of operations.”
Reading between the lines, Mosseri’s appointment is no surprise given his track record but also that he is a part of Zuckerberg’s inner circle. Zuckerberg appears to be tightening his control over apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp. And for good reason.
There is an uncomfortable logic to this because these apps are becoming more popular than the core Facebook app itself. Despite having 2.2bn users out of about 7.6bn people on the planet, Facebook is a victim of its own success and, with growth waning, it needs to demonstrate to shareholders and investors where future growth will come from.
As privacy scandals mount because of an apparent grow-at-any-cost mentality, it will be telling to see if Instagram and WhatsApp can maintain their credibility and avoid being tainted.