Artifact, the news aggregator startup created by Instagram’s founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, is about to cease operations. On Friday, the startup announced in a blog post that they had made the decision to “end operations” of the app that launched more than a year ago, while saying that the market opportunity was not large enough to justify continuing investment.
As a news app that uses artificial intelligence to suggest news articles that users might want to read, the app also uses various AI tools to summarize news, rewrite catchy headlines, and filter out the best content. However, these changes may have diminished the original value of the product, which was a simple news app that could handle the built-in services on users’ phones, such as Apple News. The end result was something more like a Twitter replacement - but that’s a market with many competitors, in fact, including Meta’s Instagram, which launched a rival to Twitter/X called Threads.
But after a year of work, it seems that Systrom and Krieger faced many of the same challenges as previous founders of hot news apps. “We have built something that a core group of users love, but we have concluded that the market opportunity isn't big enough to warrant continued investment in this way”, Systrom wrote in the blog post.
The app will start by turning off various features such as commenting and posting to give users time to transition and reduce moderation efforts. In the meantime, the current posts will still be displayed and Artifact will continue to operate its “core news capability” until the end of February.
The shutdown comes amid increasing competition in the context of rival Twitter but also a slowdown in the use of other news aggregation tools, such as SmartNews. The latter had a difficult year in 2023 with layoffs and CEO replacement, while their app was losing downloads and active users. Partly, the way users search for news and information is changing with the emergence of AI. At the same time, publishers realized that their content was wrapped in AI training data, which was then queried by users of bots like OpenAI ChatGPT - leading to lawsuits, in some cases and licensing deals in others.
For Artifact, it still hasn’t clearly defined what it wants to be - a discovery and chat platform like Twitter, a rival to Pinterest to explore interesting links or a news tool supported by AI. That could lead to missing the opportunity to attract user attention because users don’t know how the app will fit with their usual workflow.
Artifact, the news app from the Instagram founders, shuts down after a year, is another example of how hard it is to create a successful news app in a crowded and competitive market. Although the app had some unique features and a loyal fan base, it ultimately failed to find a large enough audience and a sustainable business model. The closure of the app also raises questions about the future of news aggregation and selection, and whether artificial intelligence can replace human editors and journalists in providing quality and reliable news.