Artifact, the AI news app by Instagram founders, shuts down after a year

Artifact, the news-sharing platform that was launched by Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in January 2023, is shutting down after failing to find a large enough market opportunity. The app, which used artificial intelligence to personalize news feeds and generate article summaries, will stop its operations by the end of February 2024.

Artifact was an app that aimed to provide users with a curated and customized news experience. Users could read articles from various sources, both big and small, and get suggestions based on their interests. The app also allowed users to comment on and flag articles as clickbait, and to post their own links and thoughts on a Twitter-like platform.

Artifact, the AI news app by Instagram founders, shuts down after a year
Artifact, the AI news app by Instagram founders, shuts down after a year

The app was created by Systrom and Krieger, who left Meta (formerly Facebook) in 2018, after selling Instagram to the company for $1 billion in 2012. Artifact was their first public venture since then, and they had high hopes for it. In a blog post announcing the launch of the app, Systrom wrote:

“We believe that the future of news is personal, transparent and powered by AI. We built Artifact to be the first step in that direction.”

However, the app faced several challenges in the crowded and competitive market of news aggregation and social media. According to Systrom, who announced the decision to shut down the app on Friday, the app had a loyal core group of users who loved it, but the overall market opportunity was not big enough to justify continued investment.

“It’s easy for start-ups to ignore this reality, but often making the tough call earlier is better for everyone involved,” Systrom wrote. “The biggest opportunity cost is time working on newer, bigger and better things that have the ability to reach many millions of people.”

How did Artifact use AI to enhance news consumption?

One of the distinctive features of Artifact was its use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance the news consumption experience. The app used AI to analyze the content and quality of articles, and to generate concise and accurate summaries for users who wanted to get the gist of a story quickly.

The app also used AI to personalize the news feed for each user, based on their preferences, behavior and feedback. The app learned from the user’s actions, such as reading, liking, commenting, flagging and posting, and adjusted the news recommendations accordingly. The app also showed the user why a certain article was suggested, and allowed the user to fine-tune their interests and sources.

The app’s AI features were praised by some users and reviewers, who found them useful and innovative. The Google Play Store named Artifact as one of the essential apps of the year in 2023, and the app had over 1 million downloads on Android and iOS devices.

What will happen to Artifact and its users?

Artifact will begin winding down its features over the next few weeks, starting with disabling the ability to make new posts and comments. Existing posts will remain visible temporarily as the team works to reduce moderation needs. The app’s core news reading capability will continue operating through the end of February, to give users time to find alternative services.

Systrom thanked the users, partners and team members who supported Artifact, and said he was personally excited to continue building new things in the AI space, which he said was full of possibilities.

“We live in an exciting time where artificial intelligence is changing just about everything we touch, and the opportunities for new ideas seem limitless,” Systrom wrote.

Artifact was one of the many apps that emerged in the last few years as potential alternatives or challengers to Twitter, which was taken over by Elon Musk in 2022 and rebranded as X. However, none of these apps managed to gain enough traction or popularity to pose a serious threat to X, which remains the dominant platform for online conversation and news sharing.

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