News Aggregation Company Artifact, Founded by Instagram Co-Founders is Closing

The founders of Instagram are closing down Artifact, their news aggregator turned social network. The business said in a blog post on Friday that it had decided to “wind down operations” of the app, which it had released more than a year ago. It cited the app’s small market opportunity as justification for not investing further.

From a news reading app that resembled SmartNews to a curation and discovery platform where users could become sort of creators by spotting intriguing content from around the web that others might like and comment on, the team quickly iterated on their product.

Additionally, it made use of a number of AI techniques to reveal the finest material, rewrite clickbait headlines, and summarize news. But it’s possible that the product’s initial usefulness as a straightforward news app that could compete with built-in services like Apple News on customers’ phones was diminished by the slew of revisions. The final product was more like to a Twitter substitute, although there are a lot of competitors in that market, including Meta’s Instagram, which recently unveiled Threads, a rival to Twitter/X.

Co-founder of Instagram and Artifact Kevin Systrom says in a blog post that while startups frequently fail to acknowledge the realities of the business, “making the tough call earlier is better for everyone involved.”

“The biggest opportunity cost is time working on newer, bigger and better things that have the ability to reach many millions of people,” writes Systrom. “I am personally excited to continue building new things, though only time will tell what that might be. We live in an exciting time where artificial intelligence is changing just about everything we touch, and the opportunities for new ideas seem limitless,” he stated.

The app will start by removing some features, such as posting and commenting, to allow users time to adjust. This will lessen the work involved in moderation. For the time being, existing posts will still be accessible, and Artifact will keep running its “core news capability” through the end of February.

The shutdown coincides with a reduction in the use of other news aggregators, such as SmartNews, but also with heightened rivalry in the Twitter rival environment. The latter had a difficult 2023, losing both active users and downloads to its app, along with layoffs and the departure of its CEO.

With the introduction of AI, people’ methods for obtaining news and information are altering in part. Publishers are discovering that their content has been entangled in AI training data, which is then questioned by users of bots such as OpenAI ChatGPT. This can result in legal action in certain situations, or licensing agreements in other situations.

As for Artifact, it wasn’t really clear what it wanted to be: a news engine driven by AI, a Pinterest competitor for finding intriguing links, or a conversation and discovery site similar to Twitter. Users could not have known how the app would fit into their regular routines, which could have resulted in a lost opportunity to grab their attention.

News and information “remain critical areas for startup investment,” according to Systrom, who also claims that other “bright minds” are likely working on innovations in this field despite the shutdown.