Three years after Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion, WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton departed the company. At the time, he said in a statement that he was leaving to start a nonprofit. “This decision is, of course, a tough one,” he wrote. In the intervening year, however, he seems to have had some time to stew. In an interview with Forbes published Wednesday, Acton said he had a different motivation for leaving Facebook: “They just represent a set of business practices, principles and ethics, and policies that I don’t necessarily agree with,” he said, adding, “At the end of the day, I sold my company. I sold my users’ privacy to a larger benefit. I made a choice and a compromise. And I live with that every day.” (His co-founder, Jan Koum, left the company earlier this year, and has since turned his attention to collecting air-cooled Porsches.) For Facebook, this was a shade too far. In a lengthy blog post, David Marcus, the head of the company’s blockchain group, responded publicly to Acton’s allegations, writing, “Call me old fashioned. But I find attacking the people and company that made you a billionaire, and went to an unprecedented extent to shield and accommodate you for years, low-class. It’s actually a whole new standard of low-class.”
The Acton interview was poorly timed for Facebook, coming just days after Instagram co-founders Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom announced they’d be leaving the company they founded and sold to Facebook for $1 billion in 2012. Their departure was said to be tied to tensions with Mark Zuckerberg, who reportedly pushed for greater integration of Facebook and Instagram.
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Facebook Exec to Facebook Billionaire: You’re “Low-Class”