... 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.