WhatsApp was founded by Jan Koum and Brian Acton with a strong focus on user privacy and being anti-establishment. Back in March, Acton joined the Delete Facebook movement and encouraged people to ditch the app. Acton had announced he was leaving Facebook in late 2017, and now his co-founder, Koum, is doing the same.
In a Facebook update yesterday, Jan Koum said, “I’m leaving at a time when people are using WhatsApp in more ways than I could have imagined. The team is stronger than ever and it’ll continue to do amazing things. 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.”
The Washington Post reports that this departure is a fallout of a disagreement about how Facebook’s approach to user privacy. The Post says, “The billionaire chief executive of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, is planning to leave the company after clashing with its parent, Facebook, over the popular messaging service’s strategy and Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption, according to people familiar with internal discussions“.
The report adds that Jan Koum will also be stepping down from Facebook’s board of directors.
Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, promising to uphold the principles upon which WhatsApp was built. The acquisition also gave the WhatsApp co-founders shares and gave Koum a seat on the board of Facebook. Not a few people were skeptical of that promise back then. WhatsApp was built on and around user privacy. Selling to Facebook (which has had a horrible track record with user privacy) just felt like it was the beginning of the end for privacy on the app.
After Brian Acton left Facebook, he donated $50 million to secure messaging app and WhatsApp rival, Signal. He also became the executive chairman of the Signal Foundation.
Both Acton and Koum are clearly still big on user privacy. As a friend has said, it seems both WhatsApp co-founders are fed up with Facebook.