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Blog // Images
April 10, 2012

Did Instagram Just MySpace Itself?

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 […]

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.

Responses
Toni 9 years ago

I think Facebook was a very natural home for instagram users by and large. It seems likely that the development of an Android version of the app, despite the wails of protest from iPhone users, was a condition of the sale being completed so that it could no longer be a niche site.

I wonder how long Lightbox will continue as it is, and whether it will get inundated with cat-snappers. Despite the app being android only (AFAIK) it doesn’t *feel* as though it has several million users yet. The live stream is a good feature, where every time an image is ‘liked’ it is briefly displayed, though after a while one starts to recognise the same images. I’m also wondering whether it’s another pointless time-sink for someone like me who has no intention of earning money from photography.

I was also going to write about wasting time being creative in areas that aren’t helpful, but maybe that’s a useful outlet after all.

    Fernando Gros 9 years ago

    Toni – I don’t know who was protesting, but as an iPhone user, I liked seeing the Android folks coming onto Instagram.

    FWIW, almost all the people I follow on Instagram are not professional photographers. There are a lot of pros using Instagram to pimp their work, for sure. But, it always seemed pointless to me, to use Instagram to post pictures taken with a top end camera! To be blunt, that was a lot more irritating than a flood of Android newbies.

Toni 9 years ago

Not being an instagram user I couldn’t have told you who was grumpy either, but there was an article on el reg about it: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/04/04/instagram_android_launch/

I agree about the pros pimping their work – it just doesn’t fit with the site ethos, and ‘commercial’ work often stands out just as though it’s trying to be sold. For me, it’s all the great amateurs (using reasonable gear) that make the site worthwhile. And the more I view, the more I find my tastes being influenced too, although I’m not happy that it makes trying to use effects to ‘rescue’ a lousy image seem less bad.

    Fernando Gros 9 years ago

    Toni – thanks for that link. An “interesting” perspective.

Mike Mahoney 9 years ago

The pros generally skip the middle man and just pimp their work right on Facebook.

I signed up with Instagram when it became available for Android, and so far my response is a solid “meh.” I don’t “follow” anyone on the Instagram site, so I’m probably not getting the full experience, whatever that is.

I much prefer Lightbox. While it’s true there are a lot of kittens and last night’s dinner on there (I post sunsets and clouds myself) I have found some real gems to follow, and the Android app is really nice to use. There are several people that I follow who do urban landscapes in various cities around the world, which fascinates me. (Including one in Singapore, if I recall…)

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