... one of my favorite books of recent months ... meticulously reported, beautifully told ... while we have known for some time now that the marriage eventually went bad—Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger stepped down from their roles in September 2018—No Filter fills in many of the details. And, along the way, it changed the way I thought about how Facebook acquires companies ... The chief insight that Frier brings to the story of Instagram in No Filter is that Instagram’s vaunted independence began to evaporate from the start ... As someone who wishes Instagram had not sold to a larger company, I experienced the opening chapters as a kind of horror movie—the kind where you keep screaming at the plucky teenagers not to go into the house, knowing they are fated to go into the house, where they are certain to meet with an untimely end.
Frier captures the power Instagram came to wield in society even among those who didn’t use it ... The author deftly weaves Instagram’s cultural impact into what might otherwise be a cold-eyed business story, adding rich texture and context, and giving us non-billionaires something we can relate to. But the book’s narrative power — and it’s told in a narrative voice, relying on interviews with hundreds of employees and others close to the companies — rests in the human drama among the whiz kids navigating Silicon Valley’s tricky crosscurrents ... The book is also leavened by entertaining details ... At a time when social media companies are being scrutinized by regulators and the media, suspected of focusing more on their bottom lines than the interests of their users, Frier’s book is an instructive case study. It also matters for future app developers, who might be building the next thing that falls into a tech giant’s crosshairs.
... happily—this is a book about Silicon Valley. It is a record of a single app moving through the place. And in making that record, in hewing closely to Instagram and its founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, while giving new texture to the Valley’s major players, like Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg, Frier tells the story of how that place works ... The book manages to be cleareyed and objective about the founders and their many flaws, without sensationalizing or oversimplifying—a hard balance to strike in tech coverage right now. Their backdrops are hilarious: Basically all of the corporate drama in the book happens around fire pits, at themed bars or twee espresso spots, in hot tubs and at Lake Tahoe. But mostly fire pits ... Now that that company—and the pleasure it brings us—are so deeply entrenched in the ever-growing behemoth that is Facebook, we need a book like this to explain what it is I’m tapping on all day. I spend hours staring at the screen, and now I have a better sense of who’s staring back.
... a vibrant play-by-play ... rich with details ... One of the great insights in No Filter is just how much those choices hinged on the personal (and very Silicon Valley) tastes of Instagram's leaders ... Frier is sharp in showing how even the features Systrom and Krieger chose not to build—like the ability to hyperlink or a re-gram button—can be traced to their own consequences ... The irresistible drama of No Filter plays out between the founders and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ... Frier's most original reporting chronicles Zuckerberg's intense jealousy of Instagram's rapid growth ... It's stunning (and silly) to learn how Zuckerberg siphoned resources and independence away from the founders ... Frier is willing to find the cracks in Instagram's glossy appearance ... She nods to the founders' indifference to the way their app would give people 'permission to present their reality as more beautiful than it actually was.' Though No Filter would be stronger with greater insight into the costs of that indifference.
... deeply researched and highly entertaining ... packed with anecdotes and insider accounts ... As a reader it becomes infuriating to see how many times issues of cyberbullying on the app are only sorted when a celebrity such as Ariana Grande raises the issue with Instagram management. Frier, a tech journalist at Bloomberg, gives Instagram too much of a free ride here. I could have done with a few dissenting voices showing how posts encouraging self-harm and anorexia were largely ignored for many years ... What the book does do well is show how the relationship between Instagram and Zuckerberg steadily broke down, with the Facebook boss presented as increasingly jealous and bitter about his acquired app’s success ... There have been a series of books about Silicon Valley’s giants in recent months...While Frier’s book lacks some of the drama of these, it eloquently describes how the app changed millions of lives, generating a new industry of 'Instagram influencers' .
... deeply sourced ... The David-and-Goliath tussle is deftly interwoven by Frier with another tale: the transformation of Instagram itself, from the photo app known for its artsy filters to the creator of 'creators' ... Frier mulls two unintended consequences of Instagram’s transformation with lively case studies ... Occasionally, No Filter reads like a book by a journalist for other journalists. But ultimately, Frier delivers a compelling tale of jealousy.
Ms. Frier paints a picture of Mr. Zuckerberg as an executive always seemingly threatened by the success of Instagram and the thought that it might one day replace Facebook in cultural importance. Ms. Frier’s account tends to reflect the point of view of the founders and those sympathetic to their original vision ... No Filter offers an engaging account of how tech founders’ ideals inevitably have to be squared with making profits. Yet somehow—perhaps the clarity of its founders’ vision—the Instagram experience still usually feels like it is about more than just the company’s bottom line.
Readers looking for the power dynamics and interpersonal drama that fuel many Silicon Valley sagas will find them here, though Frier’s compelling narrative style is more journalistic than soapy. Still, the book does contain friction, notably between Instagram and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who purchased it in 2012 for $1 billion, as well as the long-simmering feud between Zuckerberg and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. The cast of characters is daunting, but it’s rewarding to see the platform’s innovations emerge, largely driven by the passion of its internal evangelists ... The author entertainingly portrays the clash between company values as well as the rise of Instagram’s bizarre celebrity culture, with cameos from the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Kim Kardashian West not to mention the horde eventually known as 'influencers' ... An eminently readable cautionary tale about technology that once again questions what—or who—the product really is.