Last week, Instagram users were in an uproar that millions of Android users were allowed into the former iOS-exclusive network. Well, Facebook just bought Instagram for a billion dollars in cash and stock. If the expression for last week was “there goes the neighborhood,” this week it’s “the neighborhood just got demolished by giant bulldozers loaded with money and is being paved over with 800 million McMansions.”
Why is beloathed Facebook buying beloved Instagram? Well, for one, Zuck directly explains in his post announcing the deal that “providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.” And the photo experience in Facebook, the world’s largest photo sharing service, kind of blows. So why not buy a photo experience people love?
Maybe more importantly though, as GigaOM reported a day ago, Facebook “is increasingly interested in defining its mobile strategy on its own terms,” trying to “present its own vision for the future of mobile computing.” Instagram, with over 30 million users on iOS alone, very much sees itself as part of the future of mobile computing. Founder Kevin Systrom told Gizmodo’s Mat Honan a couple of months ago that he doesn’t “like the idea of Instagram as a photo sharing service.” He sees it as “very much a communication tool, it’s a visual communications tool” and talks very seriously about how they’re “focused on how do we change the world in some real way.” It completely fits in with the way Facebook sees itself. And it might be the reason Instagram was so quick to be acquired after a huge funding round that valued it at $500 million became public. Ideology over money. (Then again, I don’t think it’s inconceivable that Instagram could’ve independently been become nearly as big as Twitter one day.)
Fortunately for current users, Zuckerberg promises that Facebook is “committed to building and growing Instagram independently.”
Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.
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.
Still, it’s hard to think Instagram, formerly a company of around a dozen dudes, will ever be the same again. The whole point is that it was a different network. A smaller network. A more personal one. And while Instagram might not change functionally or practically, just the idea that it’s now owned by the social network — the one we were probably trying to escape from — makes it feel a little less small and a little less personal. A little less beloved.
So, who’s already planning their exodus to Path?