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Why the WhatsApp founders really quit

June 5 · Issue #151 · View online
The Interface
The Interface is a messy newsletter that lives for drama, and so naturally I was excited to read Kirsten Grind and Deepa Seetharaman’s deeply reported account about the conflicts that led WhatsApp cofounders Jan Koum and Brian Acton to leave Facebook this year even though it cost them a collective $1 billion.
It was one of the stranger mergers of the past decade or so, at least in the sense that Koum and Acton actively disdained their acquirer’s business model. They spent four years rejecting almost every entreaty from Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to monetize the app, while slow-rolling the very few things they agreed to do. 
And even when they did agree to some money-making initiatives, such as charging businesses to use WhatsApp for customer service, they threw up new obstacles in front of Facebook, such as demanding that business chats get the same end-to-end encryption enjoyed by normal WhatsApp chats.
And then, at the same time they were exasperating the people who had just paid them $22 billion, they demanded … better desks and bathrooms than other Facebook employees! Kirsten and Deepa, thank you for this:
Some Facebook staffers considered the WhatsApp unit a mystery and sometimes poked fun at it. After WhatsApp employees hung up posters over the walls instructing hallway passersby to “please keep noise to a minimum,” some Facebook employees mocked them with chants of “Welcome to WhatsApp—Shut up!” according to people familiar with the matter.
Some employees even took issue with WhatsApp’s desks, which were a holdover from the Mountain View location and larger than the standard desks in the Facebook offices. WhatsApp also negotiated for nicer bathrooms, with doors that reach the floor. WhatsApp conference rooms were off-limits to other Facebook employees.
“These little ticky-tacky things add up in a company that prides itself on egalitarianism,” said one Facebook employee.
Facebook’s egalitarian spirit demanded that WhatsApp eventually be subjected to the same advertising model that powers the rest of the company. And now, with Koum and Acton successfully managed out of the company, Facebook can monetize WhatsApp at long last.
I enjoyed this story because, in the end, everyone got what they wanted — but only after a four-year period in which everyone wasted every one else’s time. At some point I suspect Zuckerberg realized that Koum and Acton would eventually leave on their own — and with no real competition on the horizon, he could more than afford to wait. Their fate was sealed the day they joined; it was only a matter of time.
Now a Facebook true believer, Chris Daniels, is running the company, and WhatsApp employees can look forward to using bathrooms that look disturbingly like their peers’ in the office next door. Welcome to Facebook, in other words, and shut up. 

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Reader Paul L. roasts me over yesterday’s issue:
A little tough love on tonight’s edition of The Interface. Misspellings, this mess: “next version of Facebook’s Safari browser”, a lede that was missing a key part of the sentence – even the thumbs-up and thumbs-down links didn’t work. You had, as usual, some top notch reporting and were asking the right questions – about Apple, about Facebook, about fact-checking fake news… but this wasn’t your finest copy-editing work. You’re juggling more balls than any other reporter on the SV beat – the Casey Newton Content Ngine (or, CN2 for short) is nothing short of shocking in its breadth and punch – but the details matter and tonight’s edition missed your usual (high) mark.
Paul is right that these are careless mistakes, and I feel super bad about them! Copyediting always gets short shrift around here, because I’m always writing it on a tight deadline, but thanks to Paul for writing in, and to everyone else who points out mistakes to me when I make them. 
And finally ...
Wesley Snipes has starred in many famous movies. Perhaps most famously he starred in Blade, as the titular vampire (Blade). Someone once took a photo of a box bearing the message “DO NOT USE BLADE TO OPEN,” in which the person is opening the box with a DVD of the movie Blade.
People will not stop sending this picture to Wesley Snipes and he would like you to stop. 
For everyone that sends me this photo 300 times a day ... I SEENT IT!!! I SEENT IT! I SEENT IT! 😂
He seent it!
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