Mark Zuckerburg has just announced that Facebook will buy the mega-popular photo-sharing service Instagram for $US1 billion. Facebook's been on a buying spree of late and has been beefing up its own already-ubiquitous photo-sharing service lately as well. But it looks like it just landed a whale.
Facebook is already one of the biggest photo-sharing destinations on the web. Everyone's on Facebook, and so are all their pictures. But Instagram isn't just another photo-sharing service; it's basically everyone's favourite little social network. And unlike Twitter, the last little social network that didn't stay little, Facebook's nipping Instagram in the bud before it takes on a life of its own.
How fast has Instagram grown? It's got 30 million users despite having been iOS-only until recently. And it just expanded its API to include uploads from competitors like Hipstamatic. If everyone you know wasn't on it before, they were going to be soon. In fact, after this deal goes through, they definitely will be.
An acquisition of this magnitude certainly comes as a surprise, but maybe it shouldn't have been a total one. We've been hearing rumblings about Facebook working on an iPhone-based photo-sharing Instagram competitor for almost a year now. At a certain point, if you can't beat 'em, you buy 'em.
Facebook's impending IPO probably didn't have much to do with its ability to purchase Instagram — it already had globs of cash — but might shade how it uses Instagram going forward. Meaning, it'll have public investors to appease, so it's going to need to justify spending a ton of money. That means monetisation, probably in the form of aggressive APIs, which Instagram was already jumping into. Zuck's announcement post says Facebook is "committed to building and growing Instagram independently", so it's just a matter of seeing whether or not that happens.
Either way, we'd say hold off on the doomsaying for Instagram's future as a smart and beautiful way to store and share your photos. We've actually quite liked Facebook's recent additions — Timeline and its new Photo Viewer — so at least wait and see what happens. And for those of you worrying how this will affect your Twitter account? It won't, according to Zuck. At least for the time being, Facebook is going to continue to develop Instagram "independently" and will keep allowing uploads to third-party services.
We'll fill you in on the details as we know more, but for now, here's the full announcement from his FB page:
I'm excited to share the news that we've agreed to acquire Instagram and that their talented team will be joining Facebook.
For years, we've focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we'll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.
We believe these are different experiences that complement each other. But in order to do this well, we need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram's strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook.
That's why we're committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.
We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.
These and many other features are important parts of the Instagram experience and we understand that. We will try to learn from Instagram's experience to build similar features into our other products. At the same time, we will try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook's strong engineering team and infrastructure.
This is an important milestone for Facebook because it's the first time we've ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.
We're looking forward to working with the Instagram team and to all of the great new experiences we're going to be able to build together.