When Facebook bought Instagram it turned a corner from cool renegade start-up status to just status quo.
Facebook is now a 3,000-person, about-to-be-public major corporation with almost $4 billion in cash and an $85 to $100 billion valuation. This latest $1 billion acquisition of Instagram has wrought some social media "unliking." CNN's John Sutter reports that the acquisition:
...stirred up a caldron of ill will that the "People of the Internet" have been harboring toward Mark Zuckerberg's once-hip company. Some Instagram users said they were downloading all of their photos and then deleting them from the app just so Facebook couldn't get its hands on them.
"When did Facebook become so uncool?" asks the CNN column's headline. The social behemoth has culled and reaped advantage from the excessive personal disclosure of its 850 million users so consistently, successfully and assiduously that those much-habituated users, along with the media, now routinely question its motives and arcane privacy policies.
In the six hours following Monday's news of the Facebook Instagram take-over, Instaport, a service that lets people remove photos from Instagram and transfer them to home storage, had 25,000 visits, far above its usual daily traffic of around 400 visits.
"You could read that spike, on the one hand, as a mass freak-out on the part of users who don't trust Facebook -- despite Mark Zuckerberg's promises -- with their networks and memories," writes Megan Garber in The Atlantic. "You could also read it as an insurance play, a just-to-be-safe move on the part of people who want to feel sure that their photos are secure."
The once-exclusive club Zuckerberg founded for Harvard students has morphed into “the big, bland company that the app's users worry will ruin the cool thing they had going.”
Tech blog TheNextWeb posted instructions about deleting Instagram accounts to keep information and photos out of Facebook’s clutches…"There is no guarantee that Facebook will be using the data gathered by Instagram but we wouldn't bet against it in a million years." On his Facebook page, CEO Zuckerberg attempted to reassure skeptics:
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.
At BetaBeat, Rick Webb forsees an era of upsets, with no digital player assured of lasting dominance: “The days of people jousting fruitlessly against the dominant tech titan—Google—are over…Google may be finally facing its first serious threat in the form of Facebook, which is exciting… Facebook may be the first viable threat to Google, but its own market dominance is by no means assured.”
Webb reminds us of the strategic moves by Facebook culminating in the Instagram take-over: “It acquired small companies that helped them out or posed a potential threat—Gowalla, Beluga, Hot Potato, FriendFeed… Seems to me that everyone learned a lesson from Twitter and Facebook: whatever it takes, don’t let these companies get anywhere near 100 million users. Buy them now before they become your main competitor. Instagram was getting too close, especially with its recent launch on the Android platform.”
On social answer site Quora, Robert Scoble listed the most tangible aspects of Instagram’s value-add to Facebook’s databases:
- It knows who you like seeing photos from. That gets Facebook a dramatically better photo "graph."
- It knows where you are when you shoot the photo. That is very important info for Facebook to know about you.
- It shows a range of passions that you have…Facebook's databases need this info to optimize the media it will bring to you. This data is WORTH SHITLOADS!
- Instagram will let Facebook develop a new kind of Open Graph advertising. One where Facebook will be able to offer mobile developers a lot of money in return for opening their apps up to Open Graph. Venture capitalists in Silicon Valley are slobbering over this new potential revenue stream, so having lots of VC buy-in (they just got a nice payday) will be very important.
So okay. Facebook hasn’t really lost its mojo, it just traded up for mobile.
[Image via Shutterstock]