Being a digital professional, I normally try to remain neutral to industry news like this, but I love my Instagram account so my reaction was… less controlled.
— Robert Fransgaard (@fransgaard) April 9, 2012
Why did I react this way? How had Instagram become the first network I check in the morning in favour of my good old friend Twitter?
It’s all in mobile sharing
I’m not a photographer but I post photos from my iPhone to share the moment in an instant or a thought before it is gone. There were already photo sharing services, but none did what I really needed:
- My Facebook is limited to close friends and being worried about Facebook’s use of data I really only use it as a glorified messaging system.
- I am a Flickr Pro user but was never a fan of Flickr’s iPhone app partly because of the interface and partly because of it’s difficulty sharing to other social networks.
- Twitter image services such as YFrog provided the speed and integration I wanted but I feared losing the photos by scattering photos all over the internet.
Then Instagram came offering a fast, mobile-optimized user experience; Sharing options to lots of other social networks (allowing me to save photos to Flickr) and a lovely community to boot.
Why I am worried about Facebook buying Instagram
From a business point-of-view I can see the logic of Facebook buying Instagram as they stepped onto Facebook turf and did it better and Google are probably kicking themselves for not getting there first.
But from a user’s point of view I am not really keen on this for several reasons:
- What will Facebook do with my Instagram data? If you are not paying for the product, you are the product and Facebook is good at selling you.
- What will Facebook do with Instagram? Both parties are keen to stress that Instagram will continue as Instagram, but Facebook is notorious for buying start-ups, dismantling them and reallocating their employees.
- What will happen with the Instagram user experience? Ads everywhere, suggested users, games, pokes, screwed up timelines, integration with Spotify… Worst case scenario is a user experience drowned in “helpful” services.
- Instagram exclusivity gone. Like it or not, Instagram had a alluring “members only” feel to it. It was only iPhone, it was only mobile. Facebook is the general public online and now Instagram will open its doors potentially losing the magic in the process… Yes, I’m a closet Apple snob I guess.
The opportunity for other photo-sharing networks.
Users are dependant on Instagram in the same way as they are dependant on Facebook as a way to stay in touch with close friends, but even so it may only be a small elitist group of people who will be jumping ship here and now, because where should they go if they left Instagram?
This is a massive opportunity for established networks such as Flickr and Tumblr and for new ones such as Path, maybe even Google+. It all comes down to who can match Instagram’s great mobile user experience… right here and now, none of them can.
What will I do?
Personally I don’t feel like using Instagram anymore at the time of writing this, but I will keep my account… possibly deleting all images if I can find an easy way to do it to avoid Facebook’s data harvester.
But I will be looking for a new candidate to take over and looking at how the Flickr iPhone app has been evolving over the last year I am pleasantly surprised to see an option to share on Twitter.