Facebook buys Instagram – why?

So, I go away camping for a week and then come back to the bombshell that Facebook have bought my beloved Instagram. Wow! Didn’t see that coming. I also didn’t see that $1B price tag. Excuse me?!

I’m not a great Facebook fan. I’ve not articulated why in a blog post yet, but I will do shortly as it seems a good follow-up to this. However, this post is not about bashing Facebook, I’d be equally concerned about whoever bought Instagram; such an event always throws up comments & questions.

So I’ve come up with some key questions (13, seeing as it’s Friday the 13th today ;) ) which I’m mulling over as well as some sketchy answers; however, I’m hoping that you (smarter) ladies & gentlemen out there will chip in as well.

Note: Instagram (IG) has, up to this point, been free and I’ve got a lot of value out of it. So I cannot complain about anything here but, at the same time, as an active member of the IG community, I do have a voice. If someone offered me $1B for Tweko I’d take it ;)

Ok, let’s get on with my questions & “back-of-a-fag-packet” answers. If you have any input then please let me have it.

1) Why did Facebook buy IG?

Was this simply a talent scoop? Did they want to snap up the small team who are obviously very switched on when it comes to how & why people share photos, especially via mobile.

Is this because IG operate in a land where Facebook would have preferred to have been? Concentrating on mobile first with a pretty open privacy model? (In fairness, this wasn’t an option when FB started).

Or are Facebook keen to buy more up of the magic Instagram stickyness which means that a new user can join IG and have hundreds of followers in only a few weeks (is that so simple with Facebook Pages? Not in my experience).

Facebook are obviously already doing pretty well themselves on photos so there is something else going on here; did they fear IG? Instagram is a social network after all. Facebook probably worked out the hard way that, basically, people like to share photos; Instagram boiled that nugget into their offer from day one.

2) What were IG doing which FB were not?

Was this what I mentioned above? That users on IG can quickly get great interaction from people they don’t know? This makes for a very sticky & engaging platform.

But perhaps this interactivity is part of the fact that the Instagram platform is incredibly simple; certainly when compared with the flight deck of controls and privacy filters, etc. on Facebook.

3) Why did IG sell to FB?

Were they in talks with others? Google? Twitter? Was there a bidding war? Was this simply a “the-deepest-pockets-wins” situation?

I find it hard to think that this was simply about money; although $1B would certainly tempt a lot of people! But no, the founders of IG would have nurtured IG through the start-up years; they wouldn’t want it to go to a home they were not happy with.

Note: I wonder what % of the 30M people on Instagram share to Facebook? I wonder if that stat influenced the sell decision?
Was there a shared vision? The IG founders never really seemed to say it was a just a photo sharing website; it was always about “the story“. Perhaps they saw Facebook as a home for the story as well?

4) Can FB make it easier for IG to make money?

Sure. But was this the main concern for IG?

5) Does this mean an increasingly impaired experience for non-FB users?

I hope not. But users of Tweedeck since it got purchased by Twitter have a story to tell.

6) What does this mean for me?

Ultimately I don’t care about Instagram per se – I care about my community there; if the Instagram API allows another photo app to “take your friends from Instagram with you” then fine. I’m all ears.

7) What have IG done the last x months except scale?

Were they afraid of change? Did they simply want to sell based on a model that worked? (well, a model that was growing at least).

8) Could this be a way of luring people back in to FB?

Ok, this is a completely wild punt based on the assumption that there are people like me who used to use Facebook but then wandered off into other networks.

Is such an activity a concern of FB’s? I’m not a big Facebook fan – I think it tries to be all things to all people and that, I believe, is their weakness. I prefer to assemble my own social networks from combinations of services; Facebook are like Tesco; too bland; too big and probably due a backlash (but, yes, I’m aware Tesco do very well for themselves!)

 9) what opportunities does this open up to other image apps?

This I think is interesting; could the fact that IG have played their hand and thrown their lot in with Facebook actually open opportunities to other apps to shine? I think so.

Perhaps even that Apple App of the year 2010, Hipstamatic, have an option to regain the crown. To do so I’d say they need:

i) to create their own social network (I think there is a network of some type in Hipsta but it’s not a front & center as in IG).

2) to create a simpler (free!) snapshot app; *learn* from the simplicity of IG

Note: If I were Flickr/500px I would also treat this as a clarion call. Make a better home for image lovers who don’t want all the Facebook stuff.

10) What change can we except to see first?

Signin/up via Facebook?

11) Will the IG community flee?

I doubt it. Not until something seriously poor happens and/or a new image sharing app start to shine. Most people will bide their time I’d say.

12) Where did FB get a figure of $1B from?!

Good question! Wish my overdraft extended to the point where I could have made such a bid!

13) What is this small print of the deal?

Be interesting to know more here. Have the original team got to stick together at Facebook Towers for another 18 months?

Anyway, very interested in what you guys have to say here :)

Joel

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