Cue the Instagram Exodus
Yesterday’s news that Facebook cut a billion dollar check for everyone’s favorite indie photo app, Instagram, ricocheted through the web — it’s a jaw-droppingly large sum for a 18-month-old product, one that’s insanely popular (5 million photos are uploaded a day) but lacks any real business model. This, coming off a successful launch of their Android app last week, means it’s been a good few days for Instagrams cofounders, Boston-native Kevin Systrom (who made $400 million in cash and stock for his 40 percent of the company) and Mike Krieger (who takes home $100 million for his 10 percent share). The other 13 members of the company will split a pot of $100 million.
But while the Instagram employees are likely taking sepia-toned photos of themselves with shit-eating grins, many of its biggest fans were left reeling. Responses to the news fell largely into three (overlapping) camps. Those who saw the sale as the ushering in a new tech bubble (this, despite the fact that Zuckerberg has said big purchases like these will be rare, if ever, replicated). Those, like Boing Boing blogger Xeni Jardin, who have been fed up with Facebook’s flagrant privacy freewheeling, and have decided that despite claims that the app won’t be changing, Zuckerberg and company will only muck up a perfectly good product. A sample tweet:
I don’t use Facebook because, christ, how much proof do you need that they have no respect for users? If @instagram‘s FB, I’ll bail.
— Xeni Jardin (@xeni) April 9, 2012
And then there were the hiplitists (i.e. hipster elitists), the ones who love the product and and can’t see sharing it with the masses on Facebook. They’ve been popping their heads up now and then: Last year, they freaked out when Facebook thought about adding artsy filters to its photo albums, and last week they came out in droves to cheer for #teamiphone when they heard the news that the filthy Android masses getting mixed in their photo feed. But Facebook? But with the Facebook purchase, their heads may have exploded. Call it the Insta-backlash, but the Instagram Snobs are already talking about deleting their accounts (depriving us all of their artistic snapshots of latte swirls, smiling dogs, and flowering shrubbery) for fear of being mixed in with the 845 million Facebook users. Because your artistic vision suddenly become less special when everyone is using the same filters.
I, for one, haven’t deleted my account, nor do I plan to. Sure, it’s always a bit frustrating when a beautiful/useful/fun tool gets snatched up by a bigger company. And there’s the worst case scenario, Instagram will go the way of Gowalla, another recent Facebook purchase that has since been completely gutted. But I’m in wait-and-see mode. Until something happens with Instagram that makes me queasy (and yes, Facebook’s done plenty to make me queasy, yet I remain ensconced in the timeline), I’m going to continue to use this delightful — and free — product to inject a little bit of beauty into my daily life. And I don’t see a problem in allowing more of us to do the same.