I’d been wondering what happened to the leaked photo app that Facebook was working on earlier in the year, but it seems that they had other things in mind. Instagram, which previously had declined Facebook’s offer, is now theirs. Instagram had made it sound like they were determined to succeed on their own. Apparently they were being courted by Google as well, but Facebook seems like a better place for the company, and it seems like they’ll still have the chance to find their own success.
Facebook is leaving Instagram to exist separate of their core product. It’s a smart move on Facebook’s part. Instagram is already a strong brand, and after only one year. It’s saying a lot that compared to Facebook’s brand strength, Instagram is worth keeping around. Instagram seemed to hope to monetize by eventually promoting brand photos (such as Banana Republic or Burberry who already use the service) into users’ feeds. It could work well with the natural experience of the app, proving unobtrusive and unique to the medium. Now with Facebook behind them, Instagram has more time to forget about monetization and focus on the core experience.
Instagram has accomplished a lot with a small team, and it looks like they’ll have a chance to continue their philosophy. Overall, this is a great development for users of both products. In particular, Instagram will now have the ability to devote more resources all around, but without becoming jumbled and enveloped by the larger entity that is Facebook. It’s the same relationship Google has with YouTube, but here the products are far more closely related. YouTube supplements Google, whereas Instagram compliments Facebook (and however fine of a job you find YouTube to be doing, I think we can agree it’s best that it didn’t become Google Video).
If anything, Instagram can benefit from deeper Facebook integration. The announcement promises that Instagram will remain open to other networks as it is now, but it’s hard to imagine the companies won’t take advantage of their new relationship. A Timeline app and built in tagging would make Instagram far more powerful for a Facebook user (that is: almost everyone). It currently doesn’t import location data either, which is an area that Facebook is interested in, and only vaguely finding success.
Would a photo-only-mobile-micro-social-network have succeeded in the long run? If one can, it was Instagram. Perhaps a Twitter-for-photos has been prematurely consumed by Facebook, but with the way the two companies are working the deal, it seems like users are getting the best scenario - a trouble free Instagram, and possibilities for deep Facebook integration. It’ll be exciting to see how these companies begin their relationship, and with the pace of tech products, it won’t be a long wait.