Artifact Is Shutting Down After One Year

Kevin Systrom:

We’ve made the decision to wind down operations of the Artifact app. We launched a year ago and since then we’ve been working tirelessly to build a great product. 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. It’s easy for startups to ignore this reality, but often making the tough call earlier is better for everyone involved. The biggest opportunity cost is time working on newer, bigger and better things that have the ability to reach many millions of people. I am personally excited to continue building new things, though only time will tell what that might be. We live in an exciting time where artificial intelligence is changing just about everything we touch, and the opportunities for new ideas seem limitless.

I am particularly proud of all the work our small team of 8 has accomplished. For instance, our app was recently named the everyday essential app of the year by the Google Play Store.

Winning an award on Android is a little like winning the Canadian Football League title. Artifact had great potential — no surprise given its pedigree: Systrom and Mike Krieger are hall of famers for Instagram — but never became a top-tier iOS app.

When it debuted a year ago, I called it a disappointment:

It’s just ads ads ads, interrupting seemingly every single article, every couple of paragraphs. This same “man, I miss ad blockers” feeling strikes me when I use Apple News too, but Apple News articles have way fewer ads, and better ads, than what I’m seeing so far in articles I read in Artifact. “Like Apple News but worse” is not a good elevator pitch. [...]

Instagram was an instant sensation because it was obviously such a premium experience. Great photos, with cool filters (which filters were necessary to make phone camera pictures look great a decade ago), a simple social concept, all wrapped in a great app. Artifact does feel like a nice app, but the reading experience, at least today, is anything but premium. It feels cheap. And the social aspect isn’t there yet.

I stuck with it all year, but have used it less than ever in recent months. In the first half of 2023, Artifact’s suggestions were improving steadily for me, but in recent months the quality of the suggestions dropped off a cliff for me. Lots of clickbait.

They added the social component, with the ability to post articles and add comments, but those features didn’t make the overall product any better. And while the core reading experience improved, it never improved to the point where it was as good as reading in Safari. Their refusal to focus on providing first and foremost a premium reading experience is exemplified by their own blog post announcing their shutdown. It looks like this on MacOS, and this on iOS. You literally can’t even read the first sentence of the article on the iPhone until you click the little box to dismiss Medium’s dickbox.

Friday, 12 January 2024