Social media: Will Facebook kill Instagram’s cool?
Instagram’s founders “have always been masters of timing,” said Jessi Hempel in Wired.com. When Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger sold their photo-sharing application to Facebook for $1 billion in 2012, many Silicon Valley insiders thought the two entrepreneurs were making a mistake. Their app showed promise, and it seemed likely that Facebook might just kill this upstart competitor. Instead, “life inside Facebook became an engine of growth for the company.” Instagram has gone from 30 million users to more than 1 billion today and is expected to generate $8 billion in ad revenue next year. And while Facebook faces innumerable pressures—fake accounts, complaints of privacy violations, stalled growth in the U.S. and Europe—“Instagram’s party is still going strong.” But the skies ahead are cloudy, and last week was an opportune time for Systrom and Krieger to announce that they were exiting their creation. “They’re smart enough (and cool enough) to know you should never be the last people to leave a party.”
“I haven’t used Facebook in years,” said Can Duruk in The New York Times, “but I really liked Instagram.” Too bad that Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg will now almost certainly make Instagram more like his own social network. Systrom and Krieger had apparently long chafed at Zuckerberg’s interventions, and just days before their departure it was revealed that Instagram might launch a “regram” feature, similar to sharing on Facebook, despite their opposition. The pair thought that such a feature would cause Instagram’s users—who are younger than Facebook’s—to “feel that their feed no longer contains things they wanted to see, but what others pushed onto them.” The main driver of Instagram’s success could end up being its doom, said Navneet Alang in TheWeek.com. Younger people like the app largely because of its simple interface and because it offers an escape from the inter-family political fights that are so common on Facebook. “But a platform of pretty pictures is also prime real estate for advertising.” Zuckerberg knows this and is sure to stuff the app with more ads and shopping prompts. “Will Instagram get worse? Almost inevitably.”
But even under Facebook’s thumb, Instagram made global culture better, said Josh Constine in TechCrunch.com. “It made nonartists feel creative, and let people give friends a window into their world.” By no means was Instagram perfect. It encouraged users to show off “their most glamorous moments” to make friends envious. And it normalized the behavior of interrupting and capturing every special moment in life with a smartphone camera. “Perhaps Systrom and Krieger’s next project will seek to offset some of the distortions to society caused by their creation.” ■