Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger have left Facebook, explaining in a statement this week that they are taking some time off to “explore our curiosity and creativity again.” According to people familiar with the matter speaking to Bloomberg, Systrom and Krieger are leaving due to growing tensions with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
In recent months, Zuckerberg is said to have become more involved in the day-to-day work going on at Instagram, and “more reliant on Instagram in planning for Facebook’s future.” Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, and up until now Systrom and Krieger had been able to keep the photo-sharing app’s brand independent from Facebook while using the larger social network’s resources to expand.
With this year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, it’s believed that Zuckerberg and Facebook are now leaning into Instagram’s success as Facebook faces ongoing struggles. Facebook has even started talking about Instagram more often in its earning calls, with Zuckerberg recently stating that Instagram grew twice as fast being in the Facebook family as it could have on its own. Internally, Instagram employees said this was “unnecessary and unprovable.”
Adam Mosseri, who came from Facebook’s news feed team to be head of product for Instagram in early 2018, is the most likely successor for Systrom and Krieger. Through all of this, Facebook is predicted to “more tightly integrate” Instagram into the larger company, making Instagram less independent than it is now.
Without the founders around, Instagram is likely to become more tightly integrated with Facebook, making it more of a product division within the larger company than an independent operation, the people said.
For years, Systrom and Krieger were able to amicably resist certain Facebook product initiatives that they felt went against their vision, while leaning on Facebook for resources, infrastructure and engineering talent. A new leader may not be able to keep the same balance, or may be more willing to make changes that help the overall company at the expense of some of Instagram’s unique qualities.
As it stands now, Instagram has largely been able to avoid negative association with the Facebook brand after the data privacy scandal earlier this year. A few other apps under the Facebook umbrella have also faced departing executives in the wake of the scandal, with WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum leaving Facebook in April, reportedly clashing with Facebook executives over the messaging app’s strategy and Facebook’s attempts to use WhatsApp personal data in ways to monetize the service.