The founders of Instagram, Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, plan to resign, The New York Times reported Monday. Their exit marks the fifth founder departure from Facebook’s high-profile acquisitions. WhatsApp’s Brian Acton and Jan Koum left in 2017 and 2018, respectively, leaving a reported $1.3 billion on the table. Palmer Luckey left Facebook’s $2 billion VR acquisition, Oculus, in 2017, too.
Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus, though all owned by Facebook, had fought, to varying degrees, to maintain their own identity. And for a while, Facebook had begun to look like a digital conglomerate, organized by app, with each getting equal billing. This made some sense. These products each have unique user bases, needs, and brands. They’ve all been incredibly successful doing what they do. Their user numbers are astonishing, singly or as a group: Facebook, 2.3 billion; WhatsApp, 1.5 billion; Messenger, 1.3 billion; Instagram, 800 million.
As anyone who has worked in an office knows, the big can be encapsulated in the little; people read the corporate signs. Instagram established its own separate headquarters a skip and a jump from Facebook’s earth ark–like headquarters on the Bay mudflats, complete with a fancy in-house Blue Bottle that served as an aesthetic counterpoint to the collegiate Philz at Facebook. The distance and detail said: Instagram gonna Instagram.