When Facebook acquired Instagram in April 2012, CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post: "We're committed to building and growing Instagram independently." Today, one of Facebook's brightest product managers, Peter X. Deng, is joining Instagram as its first director of product. A key piece of Facebook's astronomical growth is about to have a prominent role at Instagram — but when you bring in someone used to doing things Facebook's way, there's a real chance you'll end up with something that looks like Facebook.
Since he joined Facebook in 2007, Deng has become an expert at building out product teams. He once helmed a critical redesign of News Feed, much of which still still stands today, and most recently led Facebook's rapidly accelerating Messaging platform. Whenever Facebook needed speedy and effective results, they seemed to call on Deng. He embodies the company's "move fast and break things" product philosophy. "Back in 2007, there were so many challenges with building quickly and knowing what our users want, like, how do we go international?" says Deng. "Having seen the evolution of that, I see a lot of the same exact challenges on the horizon for Instagram right now." He will report directly to CEO Kevin Systrom and execute on Instagram's existing vision without interference from Facebook.
"Having seen the evolution of that, I see a lot of the same exact challenges on the horizon for Instagram right now."
This isn't the first time a prominent Facebooker has joined Instagram. Director of mobile partnerships Emily White, a protegé of Sheryl Sandberg, was hired as Instagram's director of business operations back in April, and Facebook's head of Platform PR David Swain was hired as head of PR for Instagram. But Deng will arguably have the greatest impact on Instagram's soul — its product, and the way its products are developed. With Deng in the lead, Instagram is on the fast-track to even faster product iteration, but his hiring is a sign that Instagram is no longer the strapping young product team it once was. Deng witnessed Facebook grow from 80 engineers to several hundred, and could see the same happen to Instagram as it hires up to keep pace with its active million-plus user base.
"This is the time to join Instagram," says Deng, "but I know that the things that worked for Facebook are not necessarily the things that will work for Instagram."