Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, who have been at the company since Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook in 2012, were able to keep the brand and product independent from Facebook. Lately, they were frustrated with an unusual rise in day-to-day involvement by Mr Zuckerberg, who is now more reliant on Instagram for Facebook’s future growth.
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 a separate app, the people said.
The New York Times earlier reported Mr Systrom and Mr Krieger’s departure. The founders confirmed their decision in a blog post, although Facebook did not immediately have a comment.
“Kevin and Mike are extraordinary product leaders and Instagram reflects their combined creative talents,” Mr Zuckerberg said in a statement. “I’ve learned a lot working with them for the past six years and have really enjoyed it.”
Mr Krieger and Mr Systrom built Instagram and sold it to Facebook for $715 million (Dh2.6 billion) six years ago. Instagram, which now has more than a billion users, is a key driver of revenue for Facebook.
Technology stocks have propelled the US stock market to record highs in recent years, with FAANG shares (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) soaring about 58 per cent last year. Apple and Amazon are two of the most heavily weighted stocks in the US market. But Facebook has turned into a drag on the group. The social media giant’s shares posted the biggest one-day stock-market wipeout in American history in July after sales and user growth disappointed investors. Its shares are down more than 6 per cent this year after rising every one of the previous five years. All the other companies in the FAANG group are up this year.
“We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again,” Mr Systrom said in a statement on the Instagram blog. “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.”
While Facebook has endured scandals on privacy, fake news and election interference, Instagram’s brand has remained mostly untarnished, and continued to grow users rapidly. Facebook, which is running out of people in the world to add to its product, has become increasingly reliant on the photo-sharing app for its future.