The internet is aflutter with the news that mobile, social photography platform, Instagram was just sold to Facebook for U$1 Billion. Within months of seeing Kodak, the icon of the film era, go bankrupt, we now have a start-up built around mobile photography (and vintage nostalgia) realising huge profits.
What This Means For The Industry
It’s a great day for Instagram’s founders and probably, a very good day for Facebook, who in one bold move have taken out one of their biggest competitors in the mobile social space. Instagram had a lot of loyalty with iPhone users and had just opened itself up (very successfully) to those on the Android platform.
Of course, there will be a backlash. Instagram had been a cool, hipster-ish platform and now that Facebook has entered the picture, Instagram will become mainstream and, by extension, un-cool.
We will undoubtably see a flood of new social services emerge. Some will vie for the title of “next cool photography app,” while others will try to be the new thing that quickly attracts enough followers to appear on the radar of Facebook, Twitter, Google & maybe even Apple. They will all be chasing the big sellout.
What This Means For Mobile Photographers
I really enjoyed Instagram’s season in the sun. It will be remembered (along with Best Camera & Camera+) as one of the apps that helped popularise smartphone photography. And, it was a lot of fun to play with; the square crop, the bleach-bypass effects, the light-hearted social aspect.
But, for me, Instagram was always the side-car and never the motorbike. I liked Instagram because it was a good way to share photos on Twitter and a fun place to experiment photographic ideas. But, Instagram was not without its problems and never destined to be a focus, in and of itself.
Even before the sudden burst of users when Instagram opened its doors to the Android platform, there were limitations. The popular page had long since stopped being a useful way to find new photographers to follow. It wasn’t easy to manage your followers and following. Without the ability to organise people into groups, lists or categories, those who posted less often were drowned out by the more aggressive sharers.
And, let’s be honest; there were just too many photos of cats!
But, it was clear that all those things that had not mattered when Instagram was small, cool and niche, were now going to need to be addressed as the service grew ever more popular.
What This Means For The Future
I’m not sure what Instagram will change overnight, but it will change. I’ll stick with it, at least until the summer, but I won’t be using Instagram in 2013. It’s time to move on and I have no doubt another great mobile photo sharing app is out there.
The more important issue will be how we manage the explosion of new apps and services in the coming months and years. Trying on new social media platforms is not like trying on a pair of jeans. It takes an investment of time, effort and intellect – all of which are in increasingly limited supply as we navigate a world increasingly full of electronic distractions.