Facebook's former Messenger chief has responded to WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton's claims that his exit from the Facebook-owned platform was spurred by Mark Zuckerberg’s insistence on bringing ads the messaging service.
David Marcus, Facebook’s head of blockchain and former head of its Messenger service, published a personal note entitled 'The other side of the story' via his Facebook page responding to Acton's defense of his #DeleteFacebook tweet, which was posted near the peak of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica fallout.
In an interview with Forbes, Acton claimed he and his co-founder, Jan Koum, had been pushed by Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Cheryl Sandberg to monetize the service. He added that the duo had criticized the app on the grounds of its main selling point: an end-to-end encryption solution, free from advertisers' eyes.
Attempts were reportedly made for alternative revenue streams, including the potential for metered-usage, much like an electric or gas utility provider. However Acton finally believed his approach was not in sync with Facebook's overarching dependence on advertising revenue and stated the "businesspeople" running the company "represent a set of business practices, principles and ethics, and policies that I don’t necessarily agree with."
Marcus called Acton’s attack as "a whole new standard of low-class" and his approach to monetizing Whatsapp as “passive-aggressive,” adding that Facebook is “truly the only company that’s singularly about people.“
“There are few companies out there that empower and retain founders and their teams for as long as Facebook does," Marcus retorted, referencing the departure of Koum and Acton, as well as exiting Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.
“Facebook is the place they did their best work and had the most impact in the world,“ he continued. “The main reason is because Mark personally shields founders from what typically frustrates them in larger companies, giving them unprecedented autonomy.“
Marcus also addressed WhatsApp’s privacy features, which rolled out globally across the site after the platform was acquired.
He said: “Yes, Jan Koum played a key role in convincing Mark of the importance of encryption, but from that point on, it was never questioned. Mark’s view was that WhatsApp was a private messaging app, and encryption helped ensure that people’s messages were truly private.”
As for Whatsapp’s business model, Marcus claimed that Zuckerberg defended the service “for a very long period of time,” but said that as companies asked for the same access to communicate to Facebook users that it had with its Messenger platform, Acton never committed to allowing businesses to operate on his platform.
Facebook has recently grappled with its identity after the Cambridge Analytica crisis and exits of the founders of its acquired platforms. It has responded with a new marketing push and the appointment of former HP chief marketer Antonio Lucio, while attempting to respond to the needs of both its advertisers as well as its users.