Instagram chief relocates to London as Meta scrambles to counter TikTok

The head of Instagram is moving to London, as the photo sharing app battles to stop an exodus of users to Chinese rival TikTok.

Adam Mosseri will set up his new base in the King’s Cross offices of Instagram parent company Meta later this year.

The executive is relocating to the UK on a temporary basis to work with Instagram’s London creator monetisation team. The team builds features for people who earn money – or a living – from the photo-filtering website: typically celebrities or influencers with a large following.

A spokesperson for Meta said: “Given the global nature of his role, Adam will be temporarily based out of London later this year. London is already Meta’s largest engineering hub outside of the US, with over 4,000 employees across our offices, including a dedicated Instagram product team with people focused on building long term solutions for creators.”

Mr Mosseri’s planned relocation comes amid fierce competition between Instagram and video sharing app TikTok to win over audiences. TikTok, which launched in 2016, has grown rapidly in recent years and become hugely popular with Generation Z. Despite being just six years old, a recent survey found TikTok is now beating the BBC as a primary source of news videos for teenagers.

Instagram recently revamped its app to include more auto-playing videos in an effort to compete with its Chinese-owned rival, but the changes prompted a backlash from some of its most important users.

Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, her half sister, both urged Instagram to “stop trying to be TikTok”. The pair own two of the top ten most followed accounts on Instagram, with more than 600m followers between them. Meta last week said it would reverse some of the amendments to Instagram following the widespread backlash.

Efforts to compete with TikTok come as momentum at Instagram’s parent company stalls. Meta, which also owns Facebook and WhatsApp, posted its first ever fall in revenues last week amid weakening demand from advertisers.

Instagram remains bigger than TikTok. Meta does not break down Instagram’s revenues separately from WhatsApp, Facebook and Facebook Messenger, but the combined apps made $115bn in sales last year. TikTok, by comparison, booked $4.2bn in sales during 2021.

The Chinese app has about a billion active users per month, just half of Instagram’s user base.

Yet TikTok is growing at a much faster rate, adding 400m users between 2020 and 2021. Instagram took three years to grow from 1bn to 2bn users.

TikTok has around 1,300 employees in London, its biggest office in Europe.

The majority of Instagram’s engineers are based in San Francisco and New York. Mr Mosseri’s relocation is understood not to affect the app’s headquarters or employee bases. Instagram currently advertises just one vacancy in London.

Mr Mosseri joined Facebook in 2008 and led the team that built Facebook’s central News Feed algorithms. He moved to run Instagram in 2018 after its original founder quit.

He has worked from locations including Los Angeles, Hawaii and Cape Cod in the past as part of a wider strategy for its executives to work remotely from around the world.

Last week’s financial results showed Meta’s headcount was up by a third over the year. Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in early July he wants managers to identify “people who shouldn’t be here” as part of a cost-cutting drive.

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