WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum announced on Monday via a Facebook post that it was time to “move on.”
Even though he didn’t explicitly mention this in the post, it’s thinkable that the scandal with Facebook could be a motivating factor for him to take a bow. It is indeed a crucial time for Facebook after its outrage over the leak of about 85 million users. The WhatsApp messenger was built with a focus on privacy, a factor which Facebook doesn’t put into consideration. Following the pressure to make money to recover from the losses caused by the scandal which resulted in substantial fines, Facebook may have considered bringing ads to the messaging app after a failed attempt in 2017.
Facebook had bought the messaging app for $19b in 2014, and since then, the messaging app has grown into becoming the world’s most dominated platforms with over 1.2b users globally. However, he’s quitting the social media platform after almost ten years of its existence. On his Facebook wall, he posted:
“I’m taking off time 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.”
Reports indicate that his departure stems from privacy concerns. He had made a promise never to run ads- he was a firm believer in security tools like encryption technology. With Facebook’s acquisition, one could tell that this promise would be hard to keep. Facebook largely depends on targeted ads for its daily revenue, and this is why it explicitly refused to opt out from target-marketing albeit the backlash from privacy advocates.
After Facebook acquired the messaging app for a large chunk, Koum, and the co-founder, Brian Acton had assured the users that the values would not be compromised. He said at the time:
“You can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting your communication. There would have no partnership between our companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision, and our product.”
Regardless, Facebook has chipped away from WhatsApp’s core values. In 2016, it announced its intention to begin sharing data with Facebook, a policy which was frowned upon by European regulators. Facebook was fined for attempting to share users’ data including their phone numbers with its social network.
In September 2017, WhatsApp developed two business tools to help companies reach more customers with a fee, a device that reflected a different approach to monetizing the firm other than the known target marketing scheme. This was a clear indication that these tools would weaken some of the encryption.
All the same, Mark Zuckerberg was the first to respond to his post, citing encryption as a value that will always be there. He replied Koum:
“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.”