WhatsApp co-founder and chief executive officer Jan Koum is planning to leave the company, according to a post on Facebook.
- Mr Koum said on Facebook he would still be cheering WhatsApp from the outside
- He has clashed with Facebook over encryption and revenue since Facebook bought the service in 2014
- Facebook founder Mr Zuckerberg said Mr Koum taught him about encryption
Mr Koum’s plan to exit comes after a clash with Facebook over strategy and Facebook’s attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption, the Washington Post reported earlier, citing people familiar with the internal discussions.
Facebook bought the company in 2014 for $19 billion in cash and stock.
At the time, Mr Koum wrote that the deal would not have happened if WhatsApp “had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product”.
On Monday, Mr Koum wrote: “It’s been almost a decade since Brian and I started WhatsApp, and it’s been an amazing journey with some of the best people.
“But it is time for me to move on.”
He said people were using WhatsApp in more ways than he could have imagined and the team was stronger than ever.
“I’m taking some time off to do things I enjoy outside of technology, such as collecting rare air-cooled Porsches, working on my cars and playing ultimate frisbee,” he said.
He said he would still be cheering WhatsApp on from the outside.
In a reply to Mr Koum’s Facebook post, Mr Zuckerberg credited him with teaching him “about encryption and its ability to take power from centralised systems and put it back in people’s hands”.
The Facebook founder said he would miss working closely with Mr Koum.
WhatsApp known for protecting users’ privacy
WhatsApp, a pun on the phrase “What’s up?”, only stores messages on users’ smartphones and not on the company’s servers, making the service more private and difficult to hack.
In 2015, Malcolm Turnbull confirmed he used secure apps including WhatsApp for messaging, saying: “Probably the least secure form of messaging is SMS or text messaging.”
In 2016, WhatsApp added end-to-end encryption so that only the sender and recipient of a message could read it.
Concerns about Facebook’s handling of personal information have grown since the social network’s admission in March that the data of millions of users was wrongly harvested by political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.
Since purchasing WhatsApp, Facebook has introduced tools for businesses to use the service, and convinced WhatsApp to allow Facebook to access some user information.
Facebook has taken steps in recent months to generate revenue from WhatsApp, which unlike Facebook’s flagship social network does not have advertising.
Facebook scrapped WhatsApp’s annual fee but Mr Koum and Mr Zuckerberg ruled out advertising on WhatsApp.
Ukranian immigrant Mr Koum co-founded WhatsApp in 2009 with Stanford alumnus Brian Acton, who left the company in September and donated $50 million of his own money to rival messaging app Signal.