SAN FRANCISCO, United States — Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are leaving the Facebook-owned photo-sharing app in the coming weeks. A successor for Systrom, the company's current chief executive, has not been named.
"We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again," Systrom said in a statement on Monday. "Building new things requires that we step back, understand what inspires us and match that with what the world needs; that’s what we plan to do."
The departures come at a critical time for the tech giant, as growth of the Facebook platform has slowed, both in terms of new users and advertising sales. (It currently has more than 2 billion monthly active users.) In the past two years, it has been criticised for its mishandling of personal data, with chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testifying at a US congressional hearing regarding the use of Facebook data by foreign entities in targeting voters in the 2016 presidential election.
Instagram, on the other hand, is still growing rapidly, hitting 1 billion monthly active users in June 2018, up from 800 million in September 2017. (Instagram had only 13 employees when Facebook acquired the company for a reported $1 billion in 2012. Today, it has more than 450.)
To capitalise on that growth, Facebook has introduced new commercial features, including a number in the past month that make it easier to shop via the app. In some ways, Instagram has become world's preeminent fashion magazine, with brands, influencers and publications alike using it as their main form of communication with the end consumer.
Alongside streetwear, the rise of direct-to-consumer "Instagram brands" — such as Cult Gaia, Anine Bing and Doen, which do most of their marketing via the platform — poses one of the strongest threats to the traditional fashion system.
Reports in The New York Times and Recode suggest that Systrom and Krieger — who have been careful to develop new features since founding the app in 2010 — feel that Facebook is moving too fast to evolve and commercialise the product, sacrificing the simplicity that made Instagram so popular.
In May, Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox was brought in to oversee product at Instagram in addition to his duties at Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger.
While Instagram Stories, unleashed in August 2016, was an overnight hit, IGTV — the live-streaming feature launched in June that lets users record videos for an hour — has not attracted the same fervour.