Former Facebook VP of News Feed and recently appointed Instagram VP of Product Adam Mosseri has been named the new head of Instagram following the resignation of Instagram’s founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger last week. “We are thrilled to hand over the reins to a product leader with a strong design background and a focus on craft and simplicity — as well as a deep understanding of the importance of community,” the founders wrote. “These are the values and principles that have been essential to us at Instagram since the day we started, and we’re excited for Adam to carry them forward.”
Systrom will recruit a new executive team, including heads of product, operations and engineering, to replace himself, Instagram COO Marne Levine, who went back to lead Facebook partnerships last month, and engineering leader James Everingham, who moved to Facebook’s blockchain team in May before finishing at Instagram in July. Instagram’s product director Robby Stein is a strong candidate for the product head position, as he’s been overseeing Stories, feed, Live, direct messaging, camera and profile.
Mosseri’s experience dealing with the unintended consequences of the News Feed, such as fake news in the wake of the 2016 election, could help him predict how Instagram’s growth will affect culture, politics and user well-being. Over the years of interviewing him, Mosseri has always come across as sharp, serious and empathetic. He comes across as a true believer that Facebook and its family of apps can make a positive impact in the world, but cognizant of the hard work and complex choices required to keep them from being misused.
Born and raised in New York, Mosseri started his own design consultancy while attending NYU’s Gallatin School of Interdisciplinary Study to learn about media and information design. Mosseri joined Facebook in 2008 after briefly working at a startup called TokBox. Tasked with helping Facebook embrace mobile as design director, he’s since become part of Zuckerberg’s inner circle of friends and lieutenants. Mosseri later moved into product management and oversaw Facebook’s News Feed, turn it into the world’s most popular social technology and the driver of billions in profit from advertising. However, amidst his successes, Mosseri also oversaw Facebook Home, the flopped mobile operating system, and was the officer on duty when fake news and Russian election attackers proliferated.
After going on parental leave this year, Mosseri returned to take over the role of Instagram VP of Product from Kevin Weil as he moved to Facebook’s blockchain team. A source tells TechCrunch he was well-received and productive since joining Instagram, and has gotten along well with Systrom. Mosseri now lives in San Francisco, close enough to work from both Instagram’s city office and South Bay headquarters. He’ll report to Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox as he did at Facebook. Cox wrote, “Kevin and Mike, we will never fill your shoes. But we will work hard to uphold the craft, simplicity, elegance, and the incredible community of Instagram: both the team and the product you’ve built.”
“The impact of their work over the past eight years has been incredible. They built a product people love that brings joy and connection to so many lives,” Mosseri wrote about Instagram’s founders in an Instagram post. “I’m humbled and excited about the opportunity to now lead the Instagram team. I want to thank them for trusting me to carry forward the values that they have established. I will do my best to make them, the team, and the Instagram community proud.”
Mosseri will be tasked with balancing the needs of Instagram, such as headcount, engineering resources and growth, with the priorities of its parent company Facebook, such as cross-promotion to Instagram’s younger audience and revenue to contribute to the corporation’s earnings reports. Some see Mosseri as more sympathetic to Facebook’s desire than Instagram’s founders, given his long-stint at the parent company and his close relationship with Zuckerberg. Interestingly, Zuckerberg wasn’t mentioned or pictured in the transition announcement and hasn’t posted anything congratulating Mosseri as is common in Facebook’s employee culture. Zuckerberg may be seeking to reduce the appearance that he’s playing puppet master and instead does actually let Instagram run independently.
The question now is whether users will end up seeing more notifications and shortcuts linking back to Facebook, or more ads in the Stories and feed. Instagram hasn’t highlighted the ability to syndicate your Stories to Facebook, which could be a boon for that parallel product. Instagram Stories now has 400 million daily users compared to Facebook Stories and Messenger Stories’ combined 150 million users. Tying them more closely could see more content flow into Facebook, but it might also make users second guess whether what they’re sharing is appropriate for all of their Facebook friends, which might include family or professional colleagues.
Mosseri’s most pressing responsibility will be reassuring users that the culture of Instagram and its app won’t be assimilated into Facebook now that he’s running things instead of the founders. He’ll also need to snap into action to protect Instagram from being used as a pawn for election interference in the run-up to the 2018 U.S. mid-terms. While he’ll never have the same mandate and faith from employees that the founders did, Mosseri is the experienced leader Instagram needs to grapple with its scaled-up influence.