Whatsapp co-founder Jan Koum confirmed Monday that he is leaving the company. The confirmation came after the Washington Post reported earlier Monday that Koum was getting ready to leave over disagreements over the company’s direction and issues like encryption.
Koum didn’t make any mention of those disagreements when announcing his departure, and instead simply said that it ws time to move on after having worked on Whatsapp for close to a decade. “I’m leaving at a time when people are using WhatsApp in more ways than I could have imagined,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “The team is stronger than ever and it’ll continue to do amazing things.”
Zuckerberg thanked Koum in a comment to this post, writing: “I will miss working so closely with you. I’m grateful for everything you’d 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.”
That emphasis on encryption is notable, and in stark contrast to the Washington Post’s report. The paper reported Monday that Koum had clashed with other Facebook executives over Whatsapp’s use of encryption as well as plans to monetize the messaging app. Whatsapp introduced strong end-to-end encryption in 2016, which makes it impossible for anyone, including Facebook itself, to eavesdrop on any messages exchanged on the platform.
The Post also reported that Koum and other Facebook executives disagreed over ways to monetize Whatsapp. The messaging app has become one of Facebook’s most popular services ever since the company acquired it for $19 billion in 2014.
Whatsapp had 1.5 billion monthly active users at the end of 2017, and users were sending 60 billion messages every single day. During last week’s earnings report, Zuckerberg highlighted the fact out of all Facebook apps, Stories have been the most popular on Whatsapp.
Koum’s departure comes just a day before Facebook’s annual f8 developer conference, where the company is looking to move beyond the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the associated privacy backlash. This announcement might just make those efforts a bit harder — especially since it brings back memories of Whatsapp co-founder Brian Acton and his departure from the company.
Acton left Facebook in September. In February, he invested $50 into the encrypted messaging app Signal, which in many ways directly competes with Whatsapp. And in March, Acton told his Twitter followers that they should delete their Facebook accounts.