My stomach turned a bit when I heard the news of Facebook’s purchase of Instagram. One of the most hip tools on my iphone, because a little bit lame. Here are some thoughtful points about the awkward merger.
Nothing leads to public skepticism quite like a few billion dollars in pocket change. Compare that kind of situation at Facebook to Instagram, which as CNNMoney notes, hadn’t monetized its product. It didn’t support advertisements and apparently didn’t sell its users’ data.
Facebook, on the other hand, is accused of profiting wildly on the backs of the 850 million people who share personal details about their lives on the social network. For more on that, see The Wall Street Journal’s recent feature “Selling You on Facebook,” which analyzes the info that Facebook apps collect.
As companies get bigger, people tend to question their motives. Google is a good example of this view. The Silicon Valley company once was the darling of the Internet — the search engine that didn’t have ads on its homepage and declared its company ethos was “Don’t Be Evil.” As the tech blog Gizmodo writes, Google “built a very lucrative company on the reputation of user respect.”
That was easy enough when Google was small. As it grew, however, some people started to lose faith in the company — and to question its motives.
As the company has grown, some people have come to trust Facebook so little that they’re pulling photos from Instagram in advance of the takeover.
According to Megan Garber at The Atlantic, 25,000 people visited Instaport’s site in six hours on Monday after the news broke, compared with 400 people on a normal day. Instaport is a service that helps people pull photos off Instagram for home storage.
Finally: The cool factor.
Maybe it’s less that people see Facebook as evil and more that the site just isn’t as cool as it used to be — partly because it’s so popular and also because it’s not the new kid on the block anymore. Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004, which is eons ago in Internet time. MySpace and Friendster — all of Facebook’s predecessors — didn’t survive (or didn’t continue to grow) for this long.
Instagram, meanwhile, was founded in late 2010 and was only in recent months becoming part of the zeitgist. iPhone-toting hipster types liked the app for its mobility — you cold post photos easily from your phone — and filters that gave their pics a retro, vintage vibe.