Artifact, the news aggregator app created by Instagram’s founders, is closing down after a little over a year in operation. The startup announced in a blog post that they have decided to “wind down operations” of the app, saying the market opportunity wasn’t big enough to warrant further investment.
Originally launched as a news reading app similar to SmartNews, Artifact rapidly evolved into a platform for curating and discovering news links that allowed individual users to post content for others to like and comment on. They also employed several AI tools for summarizing articles, rewriting clickbait headlines, and surfacing the best stories. However, these constant changes seemed to dilute the original purpose of Artifact as a simple way to read news, making it more akin to a Twitter or Instagram competitor in a crowded market.
In the shutdown announcement, co-founder Kevin Systrom acknowledged that realizing when the market dynamics aren’t favorable is an important skill for startups, and that closing Artifact now allows them to focus time on “newer, bigger and better things.” While Artifact will begin removing features like commenting over the next few weeks before fully winding down at the end of February, Systrom remains optimistic about opportunities in AI and news startups.
The shutdown comes as competition increases among Twitter rivals and usage of news aggregators like SmartNews declines. The way people consume news itself is evolving thanks to AI, with chatbots like ChatGPT being able to summarize articles and answer questions. Artifact’s identity crisis between being a discovery platform, conversation hub, or AI news engine may have been its downfall in capturing users’ attention. Still, Systrom believes news and information startups remain an important area for investment.
They left the world with the following message:
A Farewell from Artifact To our Artifact Users and Partners, We’ve made the decision to wind down operations of the Artifact app. Artifact will continue to operate the core news reading capability through the end of February. In order to slim down operations, effective on January 12th, we are removing the ability to add new posts and comments. Your existing posts will remain visible to you on your own profile self-view. To learn more, please read our announcement post. Thank you to all who have joined us on this adventure we call Artifact. — The Artifact team