Facebook Buys Instagram – What Does This Mean for the Photo-Sharing Start Up?

Mark Zuckerberg and the team at Facebook must have read last week’s post about Twitter buying start-ups and felt left out: The news broke on Monday that Facebook had bought Instagram for a billion dollars. Mark Zuckerberg made a lengthy statement on his Facebook page to the effect that they want to bring together the capabilities of the two sites – as opposed to minimising the sharing abilities of Instagram.

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This image was taken with Instagram for Android

 These are Not the Instagram-droids You’re Looking For

Instagram has been in the spotlight a fair bit over the last few weeks, since Apple users lost their exclusivity with the publication of an Instagram app for Android. This pleased Android users… but left a lot of iPhone users unhappy about having to share ‘their’ app.

Now those users are feeling even less special with the fear that the Facebook takeover will mean big changes. Murmurs from users who threatened to leave Instagram when it became available on Android are now amplified. A potential victim of its own popularity – will Instagram’s reign continue?

Why Does Facebook Want Instagram?

Facebook has a history of buying start-ups and then shutting them down (notably Gowalla and FriendFeed), but the hope is that this will be different.

Most people have taken Zuckerberg’s word that they will not reduce Instagram’s sharing capabilities to Facebook only – we took this photo with Instagram today and shared it on Twitter as usual.

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Instead, it’s assumed that the main thing in it for Facebook is access to the million networked Instagram users that are thought not to also be on Facebook.

It’s likely that the Facebook team have noted the popularity of Pinterest amongst people who dislike the micro-blogging aspect of Facebook and Twitter but who are willing to celebrate good design by socially sharing images. Instagram allows users to create their own network within the application, and some of these users will have been previously out of Facebook’s reach.

Why Does Instagram Want Facebook?

Apps like Instagram that are free to download and have no annoying advertising still need to give their investors a return. Instagram has achieved what was presumably its original goal – to become popular and therefore worth something. Yes, they’ve “sold out”, but isn’t that the point of having a business in the first place?

The developers are also now in the enviable situation of working with one of the most well-known companies in the world!

What Changes are We Likely to See?

Have a look at this Instagram picture, taken this morning. See the blue header? The font and icon with the profile name?

Little differences like this were inevitable – but where else might we see drastic changes?

Instagram’s web presence is currently almost non-existent beyond mobile devices, so an online networking/sharing site is likely to be on the horizon. Conversely, Facebook itself admits in its flotation prospectus that it is falling behind in the move towards mobile internet – the Instagram purchase may be part of an effort to catch up.

Facebook itself need to keep people engaged as their attention is distracted by Twitter, Pinterest, etc. The photo-sharing aspect of Facebook is a big part of its continuing popularity, and integrating some Instagram features could be one way of keeping people interested. It’s not unreasonable to expect some of the basic photo editing tools to turn up on the photo album pages.

“We’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently.”

(From Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook announcement – see below for the whole thing!)

Facebook wouldn’t have paid such a lot of money for Instagram if they intended to just leave it alone and not try and use aspects of one social network in the other. Instagram was sold as an alternative to becoming chargeable or having advertising, and Facebook will need a return on their investment just as the Instagram investors did.

We’ll have to trust for now that Zuckerberg et al. will not make any drastic changes that deter users – but it is certain that some more crossovers between Facebook and Instagram will be seen in the near future.

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Aaron Charlie

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