Jan Koum, a managing director at Facebook, is reportedly leaving the tech giant over an apparent divergence of opinion as to where the company is headed and how its changing.
Koum, the co-founder of WhatsApp, a secure and extremely popular messaging service acquired by Facebook for roughly $19 billion in 2014, disagreed with leadership placing ads on the app, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. Brian Acton, the other co-founder of WhatsApp, is also displeased with the higher-ups’ decision to embed sponsors in a platform that was originally designed to be aesthetically simple and have straightforward services.
Facebook makes most of their money off of ads, and a lack of marketing on WhatsApp was a point of contention for the company that wanted the subsidiary to be more profitable, according to The WSJ.
Also, WhatsApp’s foundational feature is its end-to-end encryption, meaning communications are part of a system where only the participants can read it. Encryption is the process of transforming data into complex codes to automatically lock the information and essentially obstruct unauthorized access.
The public backlash against Facebook for not ensuring people’s digital privacy could have played a part as well.
Acton proclaimed in March that it was “time” to “#deletefacebook” after a spate of unseemly news and purportedly recent revelations surfaced, adding to already stoked fears of social media and its implications. Others are being blamed. However, Facebook in particular is being vilified for an alleged lack of care over how users’ data is utilized or its platform is manipulated.
Acton left WhatsApp in September 2017, and now Koum is following suit.
“It’s been almost a decade since Brian and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best people,” Koum wrote on Facebook, while denoting that he is “feeling emotional.” “But it is time for me to move on. I’ve been blessed to work with such an incredibly small team and see how a crazy amount of focus can produce an app used by so many people all over the world.”
Using his own platform, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg directly commented on Koum’s post.
“Jan: I will miss working so closely with you,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I’m grateful for everything you’ve done to help connect the world, and for everything you’ve taught me, including about encryption and its ability to take power from centralized systems and put it back in people’s hands.”
COO Sheryl Sandberg chimed in as well.
“Jan, the work you’ve done building WhatsApp has connected so many people around the world,” the tech executive said. “I’m grateful to have worked with you and I wish you all the best in your next chapter.”
Most probably won’t feel bad for Koum technically leaving a company he played such a critical part in starting. Likely with that huge acquisition money, Koum said he is “taking some time off to do things” he enjoys, like “collecting rare air-cooled Porsches.” Still, despite Koum’s kind departing words, his exit may be due to the notion that his creation is being turned into a perverse parody of itself.
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