Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced on January 12th, 2023 that they will be shutting down their AI-powered news aggregation app Artifact on February 1st, less than a year after its launch. Artifact used machine learning algorithms to curate personalized newsfeeds for users by analyzing their interests and reading habits. However, the app seemingly failed to gain enough traction to be viable.
Artifact Offered Personalized News Curated By AI
Artifact was launched in March 2022 amid much fanfare, with Systrom and Krieger promoting it as a news app that could revolutionize news consumption. The key selling point of Artifact was its use of AI to create custom newsfeeds for each user based on their interests, reading history, and interactions within the app.
As Systrom explained at launch:
“We think that computers can be smarter than humans ataggregating news because they can read any article on the internet andinstantly understand the content of it, the bias inherent in it andhow it fits in with everything the user has read before.”
The AI behind Artifact filtered through millions of online articles every day to detect the most relevant and high-quality ones to include in user feeds. It aimed to provide an alternative to existing news aggregators like Apple News, Flipboard and SmartNews that rely more on human curation.
Artifact Struggled To Attain Sustainable Growth
In their shutdown announcement, Systrom and Krieger stated that “Artifact failed to achieve the sustainable cycle of growth and development that we were counting on”.
Analysts speculate a few key factors behind Artifact’s premature demise:
Stiff competition – The news aggregation space already had firmly established players like Apple News, Flipboard, SmartNews and Google News. Breaking through the competition proved harder than anticipated.
Questionable value proposition – While the AI-customization was innovative, it possibly wasn’t distinctive enough from competitors to compel users to switch apps.
Monetization challenges – Artifact was free without ads. Relying solely on potential paid subscriptions for revenue made growth trajectories harder.
Ultimately, Artifact seemingly “did not take off the way other platforms did”, resulting in usage far below levels required to be viable.
Timeline of Artifact’s Short-Lived Journey
|Artifact launched after 2 years of development from Systrom and Krieger post-Instagram
|March – Dec 2022
|App tries to gain users through word-of-mouth and influencer marketing
|Usage and growth below expectations, shutdown decision made
|February 1, 2023
|Artifact to officially shut down as announced
Founders Share Disappointment, Look Ahead
In their shutdown letter, Systrom and Krieger expressed disappointment but said they “learned a lot from the experience”.
Analysts feel the quick shutdown call signifies Systrom and Krieger’s pragmatic approach and willingness to change course when products fail to resonate.
The founders did not reveal specific details on what their next venture might be. But their expertise in understanding user needs gives industry observers confidence that Systrom and Krieger may bounce back soon with their next big idea.
The Rise of AI in News Curation
While Artifact may not have succeeded, the concept behind its AI-powered news curation represents an important shift happening in the media tech landscape:
Algorithms are increasingly playing a central role in determining not just what content users see online, but also editorial decisions on what content gets produced.
AI promises more personalized, relevant content for each user versus a one-size-fits-all editorial approach.
But questions remain on whether AI can truly grasp the nuances needed to evaluate news sources and make unbiased judgments.
Hence even as the dream behind Artifact dies, the mission to perfect AI-powered news curation will likely live on and remain an area of innovation. Systrom and Krieger’s journey with Artifact will provide key lessons to others on the opportunities and pitfalls along the way.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.