WhatsApp co-founder to depart after apparent clashes with Facebook

whatsapp co founder jan koum announces departure germany eonomy internet
Tobias Hase/Getty Images

WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum announced on Monday, April 30, that he’s leaving the company.

Koum launched the messaging app with Brian Acton in 2004 before selling it to Facebook for a colossal $19 billion in 2014. It currently has more than 1.5 billion users.

In a message posted online, Koum simply said that he was “taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology,” but a report in the Washington Post claims his departure comes after a clash with Facebook over data privacy issues as well as the messaging service’s business strategy.

Keeping WhatsApp independent of outside interference — even from the company that bought it — and preserving the privacy of its user data were central to Koum and Acton’s vision for its messaging app. The Post suggested in its report, however, that attempts by Facebook “to use its personal data and weaken its encryption” had caused tensions between the two companies, with the recent data scandal involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica contributing to “a climate of broader frustration with Facebook among WhatsApp employees,” sources with knowledge of the matter told the news outlet.

Acton departed WhatsApp in November 2017, and in March tweeted his support for the #DeleteFacebook movement that gained momentum in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Koum: ‘Time for me to move on.’

Announcing his departure in a Facebook post, Koum mentions none of the reported issues that apparently prompted him to walk away. Instead, he describes his time with WhatsApp as “an amazing journey with some of the best people,” adding that it was “time for me to move on.”

He continued: “I’m taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee. And I’ll still be cheering WhatsApp on — just from the outside. Thanks to everyone who has made this journey possible.”

In a comment responding to Koum’s message, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “Jan: I will miss working so closely with you. 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. Those values will always be at the heart of WhatsApp.”

Growing tension

In WhatsApp’s early days, Koum and Acton made a big deal of their reluctance to collect user data or include ads in the app, a strategy in stark contract to Facebook’s approach. So when Zuckerberg made the pair a multi-billion-dollar offer they couldn’t refuse, Koum and Acton insisted on assurances that the core values behind WhatsApp would stay in place.

But with Facebook keen to score some returns on its investment, the social networking giant eventually got WhatsApp to alter its terms of service to give it access to users’ phone numbers, as well as other data that it could use to benefit its broader business.

Another issue centered on advertising. Following the acquisition, Facebook got WhatsApp to ditch its $1-a-year subscription fee, but with the app’s founders keen to keep ads off the platform, Facebook needed to find other ways to generate revenue. It came up with a tool that allowed businesses to chat more easily with customers, but when Facebook bosses wanted to make it easier for businesses to use the tool, Koum and Acton feared it would mean weakening WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption that it introduced in 2016.

Other gradual changes that pushed Facebook and WhatsApp closer together reportedly served to increase tensions between the two companies, culminating in Koum announcing his departure this week, with the Post describing the Ukrainian-born entrepreneur as “worn down by the differences in approach.”

Social Media

Deepfake or fake news? Zuckerberg says Facebook might treat them differently

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that his company is considering treating deepfakes differently from traditional fake news and misinformation, which could make it easier for Facebook to delete the altered videos before they spread.
News

Donald Trump says the U.S. government should sue Facebook and Google

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the U.S. government "should be suing Google and Facebook and all that." The president also announced that he will be hosting a social media summit in July with leaders of the big tech companies…
Mobile

Google Maps insists it’s doing what it can to weed out business scammers

Google Maps has a problem with bogus businesses populating its listings, with some unsuspecting users falling victim to scams. But the company insists it's doing everything it can to sort it out.
Social Media

A new Senate bill would fundamentally change the internet as we know it

A new bill in the U.S. Senate could cause the internet as we know it to cease to exist by holding major tech companies like Facebook or YouTube liable for anything posted on their platforms. 
Social Media

Kim Kardashian can get a deepfake taken off YouTube. It’s much harder for you

YouTube took down an incredibly realistic — and fake — video purporting to show Kim Kardashian West discussing a shadowy organization called “Spectre” and mocking her fans for violating copyright.
Social Media

Maybe you missed something, so here's how to take another look at that Snap

The people you follow on Snapchat are important to you. If you get frustrated when you're trying to look at a friend's Snap or Story and it disappears, here's how to replay a Snapchat message or post.
News

Brush up on your makeup skills with YouTube’s new augmented reality feature

YouTube will soon let users try on makeup while watching popular makeup tutorials through augmented reality. Viewers will be able to actually try on the makeup products the online tutorials are showcasing and promoting. 
Social Media

You can delete Snapchat messages in a snap with these simple tips

If you've ever sent a message to someone and wish you could delete it, Snapchat has a feature you'll like. Yes, it lets you delete messages you've already sent. There are some limitations, though. Here's how to delete Snapchat messages.
News

Congress already wants to block rollout of Facebook’s cryptocurrency

It only took a few hours after Facebook provided details of its Libra cryptocurrency on Tuesday for lawmakers in Congress to tell the social media giant to pump the breaks. Facebook was asked to stop development until Congress weighs in.
Computing

What is Libra? Here’s what you need to know about Facebook’s new cryptocurrency

Facebook released a white paper announcing its new cryptocurrency, Libra, which it intends as a way to enable more people around the world to process online payments. Here's how the new blockchain technology works.
News

YouTube could make big changes to children’s content amid federal investigation

YouTube is considering major changes to its recommendation algorithm amid an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into how it handles videos aimed at children. The investigation is in its late stages, and is in response to…
News

Facebook’s content moderators break their silence on terrifying work conditions

Content moderators for Facebook are overworked and overstressed to the point of unhealthy results. Last year, a moderator collapsed at his desk while on the clock and died of a heart attack. 
Social Media

Keep up with the latest from your favorite Pinterest accounts with these tips

Your first step as a new Pinterest user is to follow your friends and favorite influencers so your feed is full of awesome, interesting stuff you love. Here's how to follow someone on Pinterest.
News

Instagram CEO says the app doesn’t listen to your conversations

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri told CBS News' Gail King in a recent interview that Instagram does not listen to its users, even though you may see ads related to products you were talking about with a friend, but never actually searched for.