(CBS Local)– Instagram has been in our lives for almost 10 years and the story of the company’s rise is fascinating.
Author Sarah Frier takes us behind the scenes in her new Simon & Schuster book “No Filter: The Inside Story Of Instagram” where she spent more than 200 hours interviewing current and former Instagram and Facebook employees about how the app has altered the way we live, eat, and shop. The Bloomberg tech reporter has covered social media for almost a decade and learned a lot in her reporting for this book.
“I didn’t know enough about Instagram’s story and I really hoped there was something interesting behind the scenes going on,” said Frier in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “This product has such a tremendous influence and impact on our culture. It has more than a billion users and as a society we didn’t really know the leaders, the people building it, why they built it the way they did, and how it impacted us so much. Uncovering that was the hardest part and most interesting part.”
One of the biggest moments in Instagram’s history is when Facebook acquired the company for $1 billion in cash and stock in 2012. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a key player in the Instagram story and Frier spent a chunk of her book trying to understand why he and Facebook wanted to acquire Instagram.
“Facebook was really interested in acquiring products that could lessen its competition,” said Frier. “Zuckerberg is extremely paranoid all the time about whether Facebook’s popularity is going to fade and whether they are going to still be relevant. When Snapchat came up, they tried to buy Snapchat. When TikTok came up, they tried to buy Musical.ly, which was the predecessor to TikTok. They bought WhatsApp. They try to buy these companies that will threaten Facebook if they get too big. Instagram had up to 30 million users within 18 months of launching, which is very unheard of for a mobile app. Zuckerberg acquired them for $1 billion, which was more than anyone had ever paid for a mobile app.”
Instagram was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and the founders are no longer with the company. Frier has interviewed Zuckerberg in the past, but he only responded through email when the author reached out for her book. The tension between Zuckerberg and the Instagram founders became one of the reasons why Systrom and Krieger ultimately left the company they built.
“I think there is a lot of pain. I think there was a lot of emotion tied into the success of the product,” said Frier. “They [Systrom and Krieger] thought as long as they kept growing Instagram and getting it to the place it is now in our world, that they would be rewarded with more independence and that Instagram would become the future of Facebook. Facebook would fade and Instagram would become the most popular platform for the company, but it hasn’t worked out that way. In fact, Zuckerberg is trying to combine all the products he owns behind the scenes. Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram will be operating in a mega network and the individual brand identity of those products will be diluted.”