Facebook has been in the headlines exceptionally for all wrong reasons in 2018. And just a day after Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced their departure from Facebook, another former Facebook employee came on record to talk about Facebook.
In an exclusive interview with Forbes Brian spilled the beans bringing the actual reason for his departure. The co-founder who left Facebook last year was in the limelight after his famous tweet, “It is time #deletefacebook” This was in response to the Cambridge Analytica controversy that Facebook was mired in.
In the interview, Brian admits that he was under pressure from CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg to monetize WhatsApp. As a result, Facebook wanted to weaken the encryption to lay the groundwork and show targetted ads with the help of commercial messaging on WhatsApp. Acton’s decision to leave Facebook, when he did, also made him give up $850 mn in stock value.
Acton and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum originally met while working at Yahoo in the 1990s, and the two went on to launch WhatsApp together in 2009. The company largely made money by charging a small annual subscription, but after Facebook snapped WhatsApp up for $18 billion in 2014, the annual fee was removed altogether, leaving many to wonder how Facebook planned to make money from the app.
According to Brian, Facebook wanted to go at monetizing WhatsApp by either showing targeted ads in the WhatsApp Status feature or wanting to sell business tools to allow businesses to chat with users. Once these businesses were finalized, analytical tools would also be sold to them. WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption was the elephant in the room that would prevent both approaches of monetization.
The cofounder avows that the in-fighting came to a head last year and he chose to walk out of Facebook, leaving behind around $850 million worth of unvested stock. He retorts that at the “end of the day, I sold my company. He says I sold my users’ privacy to a larger benefit. I made a choice and a compromise. And I live with that every day.”
He further goes to acknowledge, “I am a sellout. I acknowledge that.”
After all the reveals, Brian concludes by saying that he’s now looking forward in his life; he has put $1 billion of the Facebook proceeds into his philanthropic arms to support health care in impoverished areas of the U.S. as well as early childhood development. He’s not that mega-wealthy that he could have been, but definitely, he’s doing fine.