Instabooked or Facetagrammed?

You may recall that back in April, Facebook paid an eye watering billion dollars for photography app Instagram. At the time it seemed like an unbelievable amount of money for, what is in effect, a free app. At the time there were around 30 million active Instagram users. Since then however, this has shot up to over 100 million active users worldwide, who are in fact, far more engaged with Instagram than Twitter users are with Twitter.

Pretty cool huh?

Prior to the takeover, Instagram had a link up with Facebook and Twitter than enabled you to take a photo, manipulate it and post it to your Instagram account, with the option to post your photo to your choice of social networks. This functionality, aside from an aesthetic change here or there has been pretty much the norm for Instagram since the takeover. Until now… Smartphone users, have you been given the option to update your Facebook phone app over the past week? If you haven’t updated it, and particularly, if you’re a fan of Instagram, you might want to consider it. Why? Because they’ve only just gone and integrated Instagram functionality into Facebook photos! So, you can now crop and manipulate your photos accordingly…

And what’s more, you can also change the tint on your photos with Instagram manipulation:

So obviously this is all good for Facebook but what does this mean for the stand alone Instagram app? Hard to tell with Facebook sometimes? I think it’ll exist for the time being as a means of bringing new people into the Facebook world, but I would expect that in the long term it’ll be killed off. Whilst it’s got a long way to go before it starts delivering a return on investment for Facebook, this new functionality is only going to increase user experience satisfaction on Facebook. Zuckerberg, you’ve done it again!

So why would Facebook blow a billion on a free app?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or stuck in post Easter commute), you can’t have failed to have noticed that Facebook acquired Instagram for an eye watering billion dollars. If you’re not familiar with Instagram, it’s a free photography app which has been downloaded around 30 million times. The company Instagram itself employs 13 people.

Now Facebook have stated that they intend to keep Instagram independently managed. So… why have Facebook spent a billion dollars on a company that develops a single app, and have yet to turn a profit?

Well, there are a few potential reasons:

Secure the expertise – Facebook bought Gowalla a few years ago, redeployed the staff, integrated its functionality into Facebook, and then wound down the app.

Photos – Since the advent of Digital Cameras, people have take a lot more pictures. Some would say, ‘wasted a lot more pictures’, but taken a lot more pictures all the same. In fact, Facebook has made it a lot easier for you to take and share your photos, tag your friends, even identify your friends. So, why not utilise an app that is smokin’ hot?

Mobile development – Let’s face it, Facebook is so noughties! It’s a desktop website. It’s average on tablet and whilst it’s a bit better on mobile, it’s not great. Instagram however is great on iPhone. And it’s now on Android (a million downloads in 12 hours).

The real reason – when it comes to the crunch, Facebook is in a war with Google. From a social point of view, Facebook is king, but it lags behind Google in most other aspects. By building Facebook as the place for photos, Facebook has the opportunity to map the world. By you. And you know what Mr or Ms Facebook user? You’re more likely to be predisposed towards the Facebook platform if you feel like you own the content. Not that you will by the way? Yes, you’ll contribute but don’t forget that Facebook own everything posted to the platform. Check the terms and conditions. 😉