Could Facebook actually improve Instagram?

Many fans of the photo-sharing app are dismayed that the social network acquired Instagram for $1 billion. But maybe it's not such a bad deal after all

By TheWeek.com Apr 10, 2012 4:54PM

Image: Couple with laptop (© Daly and Newton/OJO Images/Getty Images)On Monday, Facebook gobbled up photo-sharing app Instagram, which was last valued at half the $1 billion the social networking giant paid for it.


But what seemed like a coup for the photo app's founders was met with derision from Instragram devotees: A number of passionate users in the 30-million-strong community took to Twitter in outrage, with many threatening to abandon the service because they fear Facebook will "ruin" it. But Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg claims that his company is "committed to building and growing Instagram independently." 


Is it possible that Instagram, armed with Facebook's cash and resources, will actually get better?


Yes. Facebook is too smart to ruin a good thing: What would you do if you were Zuckberberg, asks Chris Taylor at Mashable. "Easy: You'd give Instagram founder Kevin Systrom whatever budget and engineering talent he wants to make this killer app even more killer." Consider Google's (GOOG) acquisition of YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006. Like Instagram, YouTube was tiny; like Google, Facebook is smart. The search giant left the video service to "do its own thing, only this time with access to piles of Google cash." If Facebook does likewise, as Zuckerberg is promising, the Instagram you already love will only get better.


No. Zuckerberg will wreck Instagram: "Of course, both companies are promising nothing is going to change," says Mat Honan at Gizmodo. "They have to say that." But there's a key philosophical clash here. Instagram is all about sharing, distributing cool photos to your friends via Twitter, Flickr, and other services. But "Zuckerberg is greedy when it comes to your digital life." Remember, "Facebook is all about walling users off" to keep them in places where they can constantly be fed ads. This won't end well.

Either way, you can see why fans are worried: "To some users, this looks like a sellout," says Paul Ford at New York. "And that's because it is." Small companies like Instagram hold the user as a "sacred being, and that community is all-important." Facebook isn't like that — the user is the product. So as time goes by, no matter what happens, you can bet Facebook will cast a cloud over Instagram, like a "great alien presence that just hovers over our cities," while users "wait in fear" of the inevitable, incremental changes.

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