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Instagram Founders Clash With Zuckerberg, Leave Facebook

Sarah Frier
Kevin Systrom, right, and Mike Krieger, founders of Instagram. Photograph: Instagram via Bloomberg

The founders of Instagram are leaving Facebook Inc. after growing tensions with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg over the direction of the photo-sharing app, people familiar with the matter said.

Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, who have been at the company since Instagram’s acquisition by Facebook in 2012, were frustrated with an unusual uptick in day-to-day involvement by Zuckerberg, who is now more reliant on Instagram for Facebook’s future growth.

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The New York Times earlier reported Systrom and Krieger’s departure. They confirmed their departure in a blog post, although Facebook didn’t immediately have a comment on the tension.

The two built Instagram and sold it to Facebook for $1 billion six years ago. Instagram, which now has more than one billion users, is a key driver of revenue for Facebook. 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.

“We’re planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again,” 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.”

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While Facebook has endured scandals on privacy, fake news and election interference, Instagram’s brand has remained mostly untarnished, and continued to grow past 1 billion monthly users globally. 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.

The company has started mentioning Instagram more frequently on its earnings calls and taking credit for its success. In the most recent call, Zuckerberg explained that Instagram grew twice as fast being part of Facebook as it could have on its own, a statement that many Instagram insiders felt was unnecessary and unprovable.

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Updates with statement from founder in fifth paragraph.

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