This article was published on May 5, 2022

Former WhatsApp exec regrets selling the app to Facebook

Neeraj Arora said the current version of WhatsApp is "just a shadow of what we wanted to build"


Former WhatsApp exec regrets selling the app to Facebook Image by: Alexander Shantov
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

With more than 2 billion users, WhatsApp is one of the most popular chat platforms in the world.

But it’s not keen to rest on its laurels. The Facebook-owned product is expanding into new territories, like shopping and payments. The company is also thinking about even showing ads on the app — but not everyone is happy with these developments.

In fact, these have led one ex-WhatsApp executive to believe selling the product to Facebook was a mistake.

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Niraj Arora, former Chief Business Officer for WhatsApp, said in a Twitter thread that he regrets handing over the company to Zuckerberg & co. for $22 billion.

Arora noted that during the acquisition, Facebook (now Meta), promised WhatsApp’s team that they’d have complete independence on product decisions, and it won’t push to show ads on the chat app.

The WhatsApp team also tried to secure no cross-platform tracking and user data mining, which Facebook management agreed to at the time.

However, Brian Acton, one of the app’s co-founders, left Facebook in 2017. A year later, he gave an interview to Forbes, where he said that Facebook had plans of showing ads on WhatsApp even before the deal went through.

In 2018, Jan Koum — WhatsApp’s other co-founder — and Arora left the company.

Arora said that WhatsApp, which is Meta’s biggest platform after the blue app, is now “a shadow of the product we poured our hearts into, and wanted to build for the world.”

Meta has a long history of founders of its acquisitions leaving the company because of management practices. In 2018, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger — the founders of Instagram — left the firm because there was reportedly tension between them and Zuckerberg over the direction of the app.

VR Company Oculus’ co-founder Nate Mitchell and former CEO Brendan Iribe also left the social media giant because of management differences.

Brandon Silverman — founder, and CEO of analytics tool CrowdTangle — left Meta last October. Now, he’s trying to help Congress pass laws that force the Big Tech to be more transparent about their work processes.

Meta acquires a gamut of companies every year — so expect to keep seeing stories about disgruntled executives leaving the organization. Well, unless its management practices change, but we don’t see that happening any time soon.

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