Facebook Buys Instagram: Thoughts On Why And What To Expect

Facebook is buying Instagram for $1 billion.

After the $500 million valuation Instagram received, it makes you wonder why Facebook will pay twice the price for Instagram. It’s just a mobile app that lets you share pics with friends and has less than 50 million total users compared to Facebook’s 800+ million active monthly users. You can do the same thing on your phone or desktop from the Facebook site. This may be true, but when it comes to designing an addictive mobile app and photo-sharing experience, Instagram is a winner, and threat-turned-opportunity for Facebook’s shoddy mobile products.

If you’re interested in exporting your Instagram photos before Facebook gets them, check out: Instaport.

Everyone Loves Instagram

Instagram Profile CorvidaAsk any iPhone owner what’s apps they have  and you’ll hear Instagram more than a few times. Apple named Instagram the 2011 App of the Year and Instagram has made mobile photography a hobby that no one can resist (for long). In fact, Instagram is the reason I now own a Canon T2i and why I won’t switch to a Windows Phone full-time (no Instagram support for Windows Phone).

This app is fresh, addictive, and doesn’t require many words. Who needs words anyway when you have over 100 pictures in your iPhone to do the talking for you?  Instagram is also growing very fast. In December, there were 15 million registered Instagram users (IGers).

Today, over 27 million people have joined the service. That’s over 10 million people in less than 6 months with no signs of slowing down.

One of the biggest appeals of Instagram for me is the ability to go where my friends are going. Foursquare tells me where they are. Facebook gives me snippets of the conversation. Instagram shows me what they’re doing and what it feels like in that moment through the eyes of my friends.

It’s hard to notice and enjoy this in a noisy platform like Facebook. This is why I’m more likely to upload a photo from my iPhone to Instagram before Facebook. Instagram is where I want my mobile photos to be seen.

Facebook’s Horrible Mobile Experience

These and many other features are important parts of the Instagram experience and we understand that. We will try to learn from Instagram’s experience to build similar features into our other products. At the same time, we will try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook’s strong engineering team and infrastructure

Beyond the challenge Instagram posed, Facebook has an important opportunity here. Mark Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook will, “try to learn from Instagram’s experience to build similar features into our other products.”  Those other products are Facebook’s mobile apps. This is exactly what buying Instagram is about (on one level) for Facebook.

When it comes to a great mobile app, Facebook can learn a lot from Instagram. Facebook mobile apps are riddled with bugs, missing features, and an inconsistent experience from their desktop site. All in all, it’s a hot mess. We know this and so does Facebook.

This acquisition hints that Facebook will be working on cleaning up their mobile experiences across devices. Facebook users should pay attention. This could be the foretelling of your future mobile Facebook experience.

A Change Gonna Come, Oh Yes It Will

Facebook promises to keep Instagram independent, and provided a few details on what that means:

We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.

Read carefully, expect some changes to come to Instagram. However, the core changes to come will be able to be rejected by current IGers.  Facebook is notorious for giving users a preview period then forcing new changes despite what users think. So don’t be surprised if this statement doesn’t hold up in the long run.

There’s still a ton of questions left to be answered. What data goes to Facebook? Will I have to use Facebook to sign-in or sign-up? Does Facebook get access to my Instagram pictures? What about the pictures I’ve liked on Instagram? Will those likes show up in my Facebook activity?! Instagram nor Facebook has stated anything about what will happen to users content on Instagram. If you’re interested in exporting your Instagram photos before Facebook gets them, check out: Instaport.

Will you continue using Instagram?

I’d like to thank Om Malik for his inspiring and must read post on why Facebook bought Instagram. Thanks to Chelle for encouraging me to write my thoughts too.

Corvida Raven

A natural pioneer at grasping the rapidly changing landscape of technology, Corvida Raven talks tech in plain English on SheGeeks.net.