We had to plan for ‘the in­evitabil­ity of Face­book hat­ing us’, says In­sta­gram boss

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Technology Intelligen­ce - By Matthew Field

THE boss of In­sta­gram feared Mark Zucker­berg would go into “de­stroy mode” if he turned down an ac­qui­si­tion at­tempt by Face­book, doc­u­ments have re­vealed.

Kevin Sys­trom, the co-founder of In­sta­gram, wrote in a text mes­sage in 2012 that he did not think his app could es­cape “the wrath of Mark”. Face­book bought In­sta­gram in a $1bn (£770m) deal later that year.

The deal was in­ves­ti­gated by com­pe­ti­tion au­thor­i­ties, but ul­ti­mately waved through. In­sta­gram, the photo shar­ing app, has since gone on to be­come al­most as large as Face­book it­self with more than one bil­lion users.

The text mes­sages were re­leased as part of a trove of doc­u­ments by US politi­cians af­ter they in­ter­ro­gated the bosses of Face­book, Ap­ple, Ama­zon, and Google on Wed­nes­day over an­ti­com­pet­i­tive be­hav­iour. David Ci­cilline, chair­man of the House an­titrust sub­com­mit­tee, said some of the Big Tech firms may need to be “broken up”.

In texts to an in­vestor, Mr Sys­trom, who left Face­book in 2018, said the start-up, which at the time had just 13 staff, had to “plan for the in­evitabil­ity of Face­book hat­ing us”. He added he didn’t want to “shut­ter the prod­uct [In­sta­gram] and that doesn’t align with what FB [Face­book] does with com­pa­nies”.

The mes­sages in Fe­bru­ary that year ap­peared to show a re­luc­tance to sell. How­ever, later emails be­tween Mr Sys­trom and Mr Zucker­berg, also re­leased by the com­mit­tee, showed the deal com­ing to­gether.

Jer­rold Nadler, a Demo­cratic mem­ber, said: “If this was an il­le­gal merger at the time of the trans­ac­tion, why shouldn’t In­sta­gram now be broken off into a sep­a­rate com­pany?”

Mr Zucker­berg, how­ever, told the com­mit­tee: “Peo­ple did not think of them as com­pet­ing with us [as a so­cial net­work].” He said reg­u­la­tors at the time unan­i­mously voted not to stop the deal.

Ac­cord­ing to other doc­u­ments, Mr Zucker­berg was con­cerned In­sta­gram could be “very dis­rup­tive to us” in emails to his fi­nance chief.

He agreed with his ad­viser that one rea­son to buy In­sta­gram would be to “neu­tralise the com­pe­ti­tion”. He then clar­i­fied he “didn’t mean” they wanted to “pre­vent them from com­pet­ing”, but would aim to in­te­grate them into their technology.

The House com­mit­tee is ex­pected to re­lease its fi­nal re­port by Septem­ber.

Kevin Sys­trom, co-founder of In­sta­gram, sold the com­pany to Mark Zucker­berg in a $1bn deal in 2012

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