My baby brother pretty much summed up my feelings with his Tweet below, which inspired this blog.
Like many, I awoke yesterday to the disturbing (and depressing) news that Facebook bought Instagram for $1billion dollars. Yes, ONE-BILLION-DOLLARS! Setting aside my feelings about Capital–and the more pressing and justice-based issues that $1 billion could address–the bottom line is that it’s a lot of money. Facebook clearly has it, and is using it to get more. How American.
Now, like many, I’m wondering what will happen to the two-year old app that smartphone users adore. I’m not alone. There are literally millions of us. While our numbers are nowhere near the Facebook empire, there are approximately 31 million Instagram users altogether—1 million of which joined on the first day the Android app launched, followed by an additional 4 million in the first week.
Personally, I love Instagram. In fact, it’s safe to say that apart from the U.S. Bank app that lets me deposit checks by taking a photo, it’s my #1 phone app. This hasn’t always been true. In fact, when Instagram first came out I remember having a conversation with Shawn Poynter (trained professional photographer for Center for Rural Strategies) where we referred to it as the “Walmart of Photography”, bringing mass-produced, low budget tech to places it shouldn’t go. Did the world really need an app that made your “lame-blurry-kitten-photos” or “plates-of-food-we-don’t-care-about-pics” or “non-rule-of-thirds-poorly-framed-with-no real-subject-holiday-photos” in hyper contrast and framed? We didn’t think so. And then we got hooked.
I moved to Instagram shortly after leaving Facebook in September of 2010, and never went back. Initially it was a personal choice, but as I learned more about FB and their privacy and ownership policies—it quickly became political too. As a result, I have actively worked to stay out of the FB ecosystem, steering clear of apps and programs (Spotify for instance) when they required a FB account. But not wanting to be part of the FB empire doesn’t mean I dislike Social Media.
For me, Instagram was the perfect medium. I get to take photos (which I love) I can use my smartphone (so much easier than hauling around a 5D, flash and battery pack) and I get to stay in contact with friends and family. While I’m not an addict, I do agree with Om Malik when he writes, “[I] have spent countless hours on the network, sifting through beautiful moments from the lives of absolute strangers. The app has taken to me to breathtaking places–Paris, Rio, Tokyo, Seoul and New York — all within a matter of minutes.” Like him, what I love about Instagram is the pictures and the stories they tell. Sure the ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ are nice—but the core is the pictures, and the ease at which you can capture and share them from a mobile device. Unfortunately it seems FB agrees—insofar as they understand that mobile is the future.
While there is a lot of analysis, there seems to be agreement on the fact that FB’s purchase of Instagram will make it easier for marketers and advertisers to access your information. Deborah Mitchell, director for the Center of Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison told Smartmoney.com that “Marketers could be presented with a whole new world of data,” and Michael Fertik, founder of Reputation.com, said Facebook will have a bigger foothold on phones via the Instagram app, which could allow it to gain more access to the data on your device. Both are disturbing. And both make me wonder how long I will stay with Instagram. Like many people I suspect, I like to take and share photos. What I don’t like to do is build consumer profiles on myself or my friends and family.