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Bloomberg reported that Systrom and Krieger are departing because of tensions with CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the direction of Instagram.

They likely chafed when Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg recently claimed Instagram grew faster under Facebook's corporate umbrella than if Instagram remained independent.

The departure of Instagram co-founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger adds to the woes of the parent firm, Facebook, as it tries to fix its image hurt by privacy scandals and curb manipulation and misinformation.

Then, in May, Kevin Weil, the photo-sharing app's vice president of product, was moved to Facebook's new blockchain team and was replaced by Adam Mosseri, a former VP of Facebook's news feed and a close ally of Zuckerberg.

"We're planning on taking some time off to explore our curiosity and creativity again", Systrom said in a statement late Monday. Building new things, he added, requires stepping back, understanding what inspires them and matching that with what the world needs and that's exactly what they plan to do.

While it's not uncommon for founders to leave after their company is acquired, it's notable that Systrom and Krieger stayed on for six years after Facebook purchased their platform for $1 billion. But in the six years they've continued at Instagram post-acquisition, they have built a money-making giant. "We look forward to watching what these innovative and extraordinary companies do next".

The executive shuffle also creates an open question of who will take over leadership roles at Instagram, whose former chief operating officer Marne Levine, the Times added, returned to Facebook last month.

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With roughly 1 billion monthly active users and growing, Waral calculated that Instagram will take in more than $10 billion in revenue over the next 12 months.

"Instagram is the new Facebook, much more than it's the original Instagram", said a tweet from Benedict Evans, a venture investor with Andreessen Horowitz who blogs on the tech sector.

Facebook representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reasons for the Instagram co-founders' departure. Its rapid growth and user engagement caught the eye of Facebook, which was on the lookout for any services that might threaten its dominance of the social network space.

And, perhaps, Facebook might just end up competing with Instagram's co-founders. He backed calls earlier this year for people to delete Facebook as anger mounted over Cambridge Analytica's ability to access millions of users' data without their knowledge. Koum had grown increasingly concerned about Facebook's position on user data in recent years, people with knowledge of the situation said at the time.

Systrom and Zuckerberg reportedly clashed multiple times a year although they still got along and were able to resolve disputes.

Fellow WhatsApp creator Brian Acton departed in November a year ago with a more pointed message, which he demonstrated by donating $US50 million to a rival messaging app.