Facebook interrupted a relatively slow Easter Monday news day by dropping a huge bomb: it has acquired social photo sharing network Instagram for $1 billion in company shares and cash. The buy extends Facebook’s strategy of being the online destination where users store their personal history, and shores up its own strength as a social photo sharing tool.
In an official statement breaking the news, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said the move is about helping Facebook become a leader not only in online, but also in mobile photo sharing. “We believe these are different experiences that complement each other,” he wrote. “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.”
Zuckerberg writes that Facebook will continue to build the mobile photo sharing network as a separate entity and brand from Facebook, and insists that Instagram users will still be able to publish their photos on other networks, and share with different people on Instagram as compared to on Facebook. Still, Zuckerberg says it will look for ways to integrate the features that made Instagram so successful back into Facebook products. Expect photo filters to come to Facebook galleries, at the very least.
Zuckerberg doesn’t mention this, but the Instagram acquisition also brings Facebook a ton of new information to help build out its social graph. The iOS Instagram app had more than 30 million users at last count, and the recent introduction of the Android app has added over one million users in under a week. Facebook CTO Bret Taylor told The Telegraph in late February that the social network would’ve been a mobile app instead of a website if launched today, and the Instagram buy definitely adds considerably to the company’s already extensive mobile social reach.
In many ways, an Instagram purchase is a natural extension of Facebook’s recent redesign and timeline introduction – the company clearly wants to paint as clear and complete a picture of its users and their lives as possible, and having access to more than one billion shared photos, many of which also include location information and contextual interaction with other users, will definitely further that goal.
The move is already raising some eyebrows among the Instagram faithful, likely because of the privacy concerns the above scenario raises. The Next Web’s Brad McCarty tweeted that the news has caused him to uninstall Instagram in favor of Path, and it’s a sentiment that many on Twitter are echoing. So while this will definitely help Facebook with its attempts to own the totality of users’ digital lives, it could also leave room for competitors in the mobile photo sharing space to grow and thrive.