Plenty of articles have emerged advising users how to save their images and delete their Instagram accounts, with most of the furore being directed at the suggestion Instagram was looking to sell users images to advertisers and as a test of user’s tolerance for privacy changes, much as Facebook has often done. In fact, some commentators have gone as far as to suggest the controversy says more about widespread distrust of Facebook, than problems with Instagram itself.
Is this really an InstaScam, or an example of InstaTheft as some Twitter users were calling it? Perhaps. Instagram, or should we say, Facebook, is really just trying to cash into something marketers and advertisers want from social media: the ability to tap into and exploit any buzz around their products and services.
For example, when I travel, it’s pretty normal for local tourism boards, hotels and other companies to retweet or comment upon images I post. I’ve seen it happen over the past two years not just in Singapore & Hong Kong, but in Australia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, and the UK & US. Enough to be able to say this is a global trend.
All Instagram was trying to do is create a more systematic and potentially lucrative approach and clear the way, legally for this to happen. We may not like this trend, especially when it involves cash being transferred for our images with no remuneration to us. But, this is a battleground social media services will revisit again and again.
Why Did We Like Instragram In The First Place?
Up until this week, I would have said the big trend for 2012 was videos mocking Instagram and mobile photography. From the wickedly satirical @thexavius: Portrait of an Instagram Artist to the downright comical Look at this Instagram (Nickelback Parody) we’ve all become aware of how self-referentially pretentious a lot of mobile photography has become.
As important as the “democratisation of mobile photography” might be, platforms like Instagram took off because they were fun. Now, the fun is gone for many users.
Where To From Here?
A lot of people are asking if the time has come to switch (or switch back) to Flickr, especially as they recently updated their mobile app. However, one wonders to what extent there might also be some PR behind this buzz as well, given how dead Flickr had been in the past 12-18 months. Other mobile services, like EyeEm are also getting some renewed attention in the wake of InstaGate.
The MySpace Lesson
It’s too early to tell if Instagram will decline as quickly as MySpace did. After all, many people threatened to quit Facebook over even bigger privacy concerns and, in the end, didn’t. But, it’s likely that Instagram will see a dramatic fall in loyalty from serious photographers and more tech-aware users.
The decline of MySpace taught us two things. First, when a platform fails, your followers may well not follow you onto the next big thing. Second, when a platform fails, it can fail in a dramatic, total, end of the world way.
In fact, I’m rapidly coming to believe the best way to approach social media is to assume any platform we use now may either be totally unpopular, or even, totally useless in three to four years time.
That’s why, for 2013 I’m not jumping from Instagram to any other mobile photography platform but, instead, moving my mobile photos onto a new part of this site. That will still allow me to share photos to other social platforms and let people interact with the images in a light and fun way.
After all, I’ve had my own domain for a lot longer than Facebook has been in existence and long enough to see MySpace and now Instagram rise and fall. Whatever might be the social flavour of the month, there’s still a lot to be said for having your own site, to tell your own story and share your own art, in your own way.