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Mark Zuckerberg. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

As Facebook tried to regain its footing after the sudden departure of Instagram's founders, the departed co-founder of WhatsApp gave Forbes an account of his clashes with the social giant after it bought the messaging app in 2014. A Facebook executive promptly fired back with a 600-word note (on Facebook).

Why it matters: The dramatic back-and-forth underscores the disconnect between Facebook’s leaders and the founders of WhatsApp and Instagram as those apps buoyed the company in the face of stagnant growth on its original platform.

Wednesday morning, Forbes published an interview with Brian Acton — who tweeted a message with the hashtag #DeleteFacebook in March — detailing his experience after his app was acquired.

  • “I sold my users’ privacy to a larger benefit,” he said. “I made a choice and a compromise. And I live with that every day.”
  • He also said that while Facebook was instructing him to tell European regulators that it would be difficult to link WhatsApp to Facebook's platforms, the company was exploring that very option. (The company was ultimately fined for misleading regulators during the approval process.)
  • Acton accused Facebook leadership of pushing ads-based revenue strategies, when he believed other approaches would have been successful and better for users.

Acton left Facebook in 2017, and his WhatsApp cofounder, Jan Koum, left earlier this year.

Wednesday afternoon, former Facebook messaging boss David Marcus fired back in what he said was his personal capacity:

“Lastly — 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.”

He also disputed some of Acton’s claims, saying Facebook had supported the WhatsApp team and ultimately embraced end-to-end encryption (which makes it near-impossible to build a monetization strategy around the content of messages).

What they're saying: The argument has captured the attention of the tech world and reporters who cover Facebook.

  • "Facebook made WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton a billionaire and he has mixed feelings about it. Great story. " 'I sold my users’ privacy to a larger benefit. I made a choice and a compromise. And I live with that every day.' " — Recode's Peter Kafka, on Twitter
  • "...Acton proposed monetizing WhatsApp with metered payments instead of targeting/surveillance. Sandberg said it 'wouldn't scale.' Acton: 'You mean it won’t make as much money.' " — The New York Times' Nicholas Confessore, on Twitter

Our thought bubble: Yes, sniping between members of Silicon Valley's wealthy founder class will inspire online rubbernecking. More importantly, the disagreements underscore how Facebook's acquisition strategy could be losing steam right when the company needs it most.

Go deeper

13 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.