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Once mocked, Facebook’s $1B acquisition of Instagram was a good move (bgr.com)
260 points by BishopD on Dec 30, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 190 comments



Buying instagram was a brilliant move. It's a far more enjoyable social network to use. Lately I've gotten into a scene that's basically a parallel universe where facebook doesn't exist. Everyone uses instagram. It's far more entertaining and creative, and far less saturated with anger and activism. I've dialed back my facebook activity heavily in the past year, to the point that I've deleted the facebook app. I have messenger and the facebook events app, but the losing the news feed has been no loss at all.

I can see a future, not even very far away, where facebook is essentially the AOL of our generation and having an account there is a punchline.


That future is already here. I asked my 13 year old sister and her friend if they were on Facebook, and they both laughed and did an old person imitation of me! I couldn't believe it.


facebook was for college age people. facebook is still for adults. when kids grow up, and go to college, if they dont have facebook, they get it. just because kids are allowed to join, doesnt mean its designed to appeal to them. its purpose is to connect people. friends who see each other every day dont need many of facebooks features.

this "kids dont think facebook is cool" narrative has been going on for years, and it just doesnt matter. they come around eventually. the network effect is too strong.


This is just the same as the stories that periodically comes out saying kids don't use email. Sure, but every one of them will if they go to uni or get a white collar job. Right now they're just socialising, and who uses email for that? The emails I get are almost all transactional or work related, and I'm 37. I doubt I'm unusual in that.


At my university, Facebook is primarily used for events and groups. The groups aren't used for discussion though, mostly just for informing about the events. Banter is usually done in Telegram chat groups. Party photos make great stickers..


I guess it's reached the point where everyone is assumed to have a smartphone. As someone who loathes the charging, updating, and payment treadmill of the things, I find this trend worrying. :- (


Buy a Moto G4 (or equivalent) out right, get a pay as you go SIM, and only allow data transfer through wi-fi. Won't solve the daily charging, but does get you out of the payment treadmill.


This isn't correct. A few years ago every kid had Facebook. If you didn't have it, you were a weirdo.

Recently however, everyone's drifted away from it like they drifted away from MSN. The few kids that are still there just use it to tag each other in memes. Instagram is the new Facebook.

Source: Me - personal experience.


but so what. kids got it for a while until their parents got it. now kids are chasing something else. but once they grow up and become adults, they will get facebook.


Right, my youngest turned 13 and didn't even create a FB account until we told him too. He'd already been busy on Instagram and Twitter, but not so much on Snapchat yet.


Honest question: why would you tell your son to create an FB account?


One guess is to be able to have some intel and insight into what is going on in the kids life as well as their friends and who they interact with. Not sure if this is the parent comments reason but I can see it having some value for that reason.


Do they still communicate via text at all anymore, or does every message have to be accompanied by a photo?

If so, what platform do they use for that?


Somewhere I read : Younglings these days use twitter and snapchat for daily life events and reserve Facebook for bigger in-frequent events (birthday, get-together, trip etc)


That's about how it goes, at least in high school and college age people: Snapchat all the time, twitter when bored, insta scrolling all the time, post every few days or week, and Facebook for the big things.

Personally I get on Facebook twice per year, once on my birthday and once before summer to tell the world where I'm working.

That's about how it goes, then every once in awhile a new app will come up like house party recently, and everyone will jump on for a month or so then go back.


Which I find funny as hell that people don't just use sms, at least in the US most cell plans are now unlimited text (not including pictures). I never quite got the point of whatsapp or other text message alternates in the US... especially when they (many) don't have a website that can be used from the desktop.


I've been using Facebook messenger since high school in 2007 when unlimited SMS was a luxury only enjoyed by a couple of rich kids.

I don't see any point in switching to SMS now, especially when so many of my friends live in different countries.


Three reasons that spring to mind for me are encryption, rich content at no additional cost (videos+images) and the ability to know whether a message was actually sent/received


Snapchat


Can you send text on snapchat without an image? I'm asking what do they use for one on one text communication.


Yes, though I'd assumed whatsapp was the answer for messaging.


This may be one of the biggest reasons Instagram was purchased by Facebook. It's a hedge against Facebook's potential to go the way of AOL and MySpace.


I deleted my Facebook account. I'm happier.


There's a lot of spam on instagram. Try posting anything related to fitness and you'll get " awesome" and "️" from every beauty, gymwear and supplement brand.

Edit: HN is eating emojis


I love the semianonymity; I have a (very) expensive hobby and I can unashamedly share photos with other people with the same hobby without worrying about the social blowback from doing it on Facebook


Now I'm curious. Yacht racing? Collecting Faberge eggs? Cocaine?


Luxury air travel


If it's expensive you're doing it wrong


I took over 100 flights in 2016, the majority international long haul in J; could I have done it all for free by coupon cutting?


Why don't you think that the same will eventually happen to Instagram that happened to Facebook and AOL?


What's the Facebook events app?



I was wondering the same thing. Messaging and events are all I want from Facebook. This app is iOS only at present by the looks of things.


You can also unfollow all your friends on Facebook, and then use just messaging and events. This basically amounts to the same thing.


Thanks, I had no idea this existed.


I admire Mark Zuckerberg's confidence to pull the trigger on an acquisition like this, especially doing it without consulting his board. My initial thoughts was that he has a visceral feel for the rate of growth that makes a social network successful, having gone through it himself. He could probably tell just by their publicity of growing to a million users within 2-3 months that they were going to be huge.


To be honest, if the board had objected, he might have said: "Fine. I'll just write a personal check for it then."


Not to pick nits but there's a good chance he would have to liquidate some stock in order to do that, which if done improperly, would have the effect of depressing the FB stock price, thus affecting the board and all the other FB investors.


As one of the wealthiest people on Earth, wouldn't he just put up some stock as collateral for a loan? I bet there'd be lots of big banks willing to take the risk that $1.2-1.5 billion of FB stock would still be worth more than the loan in case of default, especially given the loan payments in the meantime and low risk that he'll be unable to repay.

Either way, acquisitions this big have complex financial structures in place that would easily accommodate a payout over several years. The Roche acquisition of Genentech took more than 20 years, although the latter was already public at that time.


The Genentech deal wasn't a 20 year structured agreement that was pre-agreed to culminate in a full buyout (Genentech tried to prevent the acquisition and held off Roche for eight months). I don't see how it compares to the example in question; it didn't actually take 20 years to complete, as there was no on-going acquisition process occurring during that time.


i think founders / promoters using stock as collateral also have to tell the regulator ?


>> he would have to liquidate some stock [...] which would have the effect of depressing the FB stock price

Depressing the stock is not the main problem of that. Insider trading is (he cannot liquidate FB stock on short notice as he has material undisclosed information pertaining to it).

He might elect to use a 10b5-1 plan (which basically empowers the broker to make the sell decision autonomously in the future based on a target price), but if you want that cash tomorrow, borrowing against the stock is more appropriate (see for example http://www.businessinsider.com/larry-ellison-has-a-10b-credi... ).


IIRC, this was still before the IPO, so FB shares were much less liquid.


Does the board even matter? I thought in facebook's case, it was symbolic, a nonbinding suggestion factory.


It's an interesting question...

Let's assume for purpose of shareholders, I believe Zuckerburg (famously) has majority interest in voting shares.

In practice that should mean he controls who is on the board should they not vote in alignment with his preferences; however, certainly there could be other agreements/contracts the guarantee board seats here and there, that should all be available as a public company I just haven't looked.

At minimum, one would "assume" Facebook required board approval of a $1B+ acquisition.


I dont think he needs to consult the board. I think he has a board to bounce ideas off, because he values feedback.


I don't think the board would object to his proposals, we have seen enough of that the last year, they created a special stock option thing so that he can take a break from fb for 2yrs to work for govt. I get it that theybare visionary CEOs but they have to realize that there is a reason why companies go public and they got to tone their ownership down, it is just a private company where people happen to own stock


lol, I have no idea after what we witnessed this past election, why Zuck is interested in potentially pursuing a political position. perhaps he'd still have access to FB data?

if so, what would be the legal ramifications? I mean facebook is basically mind control for so many voters, they can push any info they want


The idea would be to hold out on his control on FB via the complicated stock thing until he comes back from the govt. No clue what's up with them anyways.


That would have caused endless conflict-of-interest headaches.


Facebook had a great deal of insight into Instagram's growth due to Facebook Connect. They could see internally how many people were signing up for Instagram, how many people from their networks they were inviting and connecting with, and other indicators of activity.


Hacker news thread when Facebook acquired Instagram https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3817840


Notable that the number one comment in that thread references Google/YouTube. And that it worked for being "mostly left alone." Surprising that Google has never repeated that trick, that I'm aware of. Seems they mostly acquire and let die. (Curious if they tried that with YouTube, but it had already passed a threshold?)


Google already had the failed Google Video to know that there usual approach would fail. I'd say it was natural to let YouTube run itself while providing additional help with the infrastructure and adverts. Also notice they did eventually replace the old social network with G+ which is otherwise so thoroughly dead as to be mostly forgotten.


I don't think they had acknowledged Video failed, at that point. YouTube was more of a hedge. A very good one.

Similar could be said for Facebook. Though, I think they just segmented their market better.

Bezos, I believe, is best at this. How many things has he acquired and left completely alone? It is almost baffling how good Zappos is for buying shoes, while Amazon is pretty awful.


The other impressive bit about Bezos is his knack for bargain hunting. I don't think he's paid more than a billion dollars for any of his acquisitions. Twitch, Zappos, and Kiva were all just under a billion. Wildly impressive given the advantages that each provide!


If I understand your comparison, I see what you are saying and we are not quite in disagreement. Google took their hedge after seeing the video service they created fail to gather the momentum and use YouTube had. At the time it did not even compare to Vimeo and maybe even Dailymotion. So they took a hedge as things were looking like they would not get that market segment. And outside of YouTube dying that's likely what would have happened.

Facebook saw a trend in IG they couldn't compete with without fundamentally changing their product. Where IG could have created alternate complementary products and began eating onto FB market. There really isn't room for two networks like FB anymore and the adolescents I know won't touch FB. Its all snapchat and IG. (Which offer much better incentives.)

Both were moves to absorb a niche where each company would have difficulty compering. My claim is FB's was more forward thinking and less reactionary.


Fair. I was commenting that Google seemed to think they could still beat YouTube.

That is, Facebook seems geared to live beside insta gram. Video seemed clear to either beat or die to YouTube.

So yeah, I was trying to add to your comment. Not necessarily contradict it.


Amazon doesn't leave everything alone. Zappos is one of the few Amazon acquisitions that included a culture clause. Everything else is rewritten as soon as it's on the Bezos radar.


I think Warren Buffett is better.


I never viewed him as a CEO. :( Likely my view is just off.

Though, I'm now curious how much of this Bezos learned from him. Weren't they close? It makes sense to view these acquisitions as investments, instead of takeovers.

And for everyone that has given examples of Google doing this. Apologies for not responding individually. I am glad to hear it is more that they just get a lot of press for the mistakes. I'd love to see more press dedicated to what appear as successes. I guess they have to be ballpark hits to get press?


I lost access somehow to my original account because my pseudonym was a pseudonym. Alas.


Lost my original HN account for similar reasons. Alas there will be no recovery.


Same, after hours of Googling I believe there is no way to restore it.


Mine is still there, something went wrong in a verification process and password was reset.


> Surprising that Google has never repeated that trick

What about Waze?


Android was also mostly left alone for a number of years.


Yeah, the failed Google Plus integration with / takeover of YT was so awful to users that they stopped the transition entirely.

Somehow YouTube survived!


made an account to post this b/c I don't normally post on hackernews

but does anyone else get a sense of schadenfreude when reading these comments

There are people doubting that Facebook could monetize or become a blue chip stock

There's a comment of a guy being sure that Instagram would fail and literally says "Bookmark this comment, see you in 2022" (Five years to go boys)

This is why I'm convinced that people should honestly share like 1% of what they are really thinking in comments. Yeah, there might be a 1% chance that Instagram would succeed, but do you really want to look like the idiot doubting it could ever happen, with your comment immortalized on the world wide web five years later when you're proven wrong?


In hindsight everything looks obvious. At the time the failure of MySpace was still fresh, Facebook had not monitized its service and it wasn't obvious that chat clients like WhatsApp and SnapChat would (or could) get these insane multi-billion valuations.


I think it was obvious. I remember being in college during the acquisition and thinking it was obviously a smart deal. And Instagram was pursued hotly, so many tech insiders thought it was a good deal too.

People on Hacker News are only now just coming around to Snapchat, but I thought Snapchat was obviously going to succeed 4 years ago when I was still in college - 70% of the people I knew in college were using it.

You might object to this and claim that other apps (which are not guaranteed successes now) like Yik Yak should have been similarly "obvious" to me at the time - but that's just not true. I didn't know anyone who used other social media apps (like Yik Yak, etc.) at the time as much as Snapchat (if they did, they kept it to themselves).

But when it comes to social apps, there's just something about Hacker News being particularly closed-minded. Even in the face of overwhelming usage, I still see a solid plurality of cynical HN comments about any given social app.


I don't object to the veracity of your claims but I would note that "it's what everyone around me is using" doesn't scale very well. For example, if you're from the U.S. you might not know anyone who uses WhatsApp nevertheless it has over a billion users and is the default messenger app in many countries.


That's irrelevant. It's a positive filter, not a negative one (I didn't claim the absence of everyone using it indicates lack of success).


> I thought Snapchat was obviously going to succeed 4 years ago when I was still in college - 70% of the people I knew in college were using it.

I've no idea when you were in college, but if 70% of the people around you were using it, I presume it was already successful.


Yes. You would have no idea of this reading Hacker News threads about Snapchat 4 years ago, though.


having a user base and monetizing and succeeding as a profitable business are not the same, this was not much after the 08 crunch , there could have been a repeat of 2000s bubble, VC money could have dried up, sure guessing it would work out was cool and all, it certainly wasn't the obvious outcome


> This is why I'm convinced that people should honestly share like 1% of what they are really thinking in comments. Yeah, there might be a 1% chance that Instagram would succeed, but do you really want to look like the idiot doubting it could ever happen, with your comment immortalized on the world wide web five years later when you're proven wrong?

The world has enough silent cowards. Give me an outspoken person who puts their money (/honour) where their mouth is, any day.


I'm fairly certain approximately 100% of the people in that thread who thought the IG move was a bad idea also did absolutely nothing to bet AGAINST the move they were so sure about

in the end they were just speculators speculating

My point is not that "commenting on the internet is dumb cause it might make you look like an idiot" but the fact is that probably zero of the detractors in the HN link posted had anything other than an uninformed opinion


That's a fine point, but it's not what you said. You said people should keep their opinions to themselves, for fear of "looking like an idiot". That's the worst possible reason to not speak out.

If you want people to shut up because their uninformed opinions annoy you, that's something else. Say that, and take the bad karma that comes with it.


You're much too sane for this place, get out while you still can.


I was wrong about FB's valuation way back when during their IPO. I remember thinking, no way FB is worth that. On a side note, does anyone know off-hand how Zuck was able to accomplish such remarkable retention of control as a founder of FB? So many founder's have lost control of their companies, yet Zuckerberg was able to use an arcane stock set-up to do this?


Facebook was a rocketship of organic growth, which gave Zuck tons of leverage with investors. He was also advised on retaining control by experienced guys like Sean Parker. Him moving to Silicon Valley also helped, because it has the most founder friendly investors on the planet.


You consider Facebook a blue chip stock?


it would have failed if it wasn't for this. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook,_Inc._v._Power_Ventur....

Government and regulations always protect monopolies!


Your link doesn't work since the '.' fell off the end:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook,_Inc._v._Power_Ventur....

And I'd hardly call Facebook a monopoly in 2009 when that case was decided. I think Myspace still had more users at that time.


The same happened to yours. A bug in HN's truncation, I guess?


Yep, must be.. I doubled up the period in my comment and it looks like that fixed it.


Seems like most people got it. I remember being much more taken aback by the WhatsApp acquisition.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7266618

Which I think has not yet proven itself to be a savvy one monetarily (but the usage numbers remain incredible)


Can we now mock all those who prognosticated poorly in regards to Instagram's success?

I see a lot of smug in the previous thread that needs to be called out.


if the only reason you're right and they're wrong is because you enjoyed the benefit of hindsight, then i would say that's not much to brag about...


No need to mock anyone. Just take your awesome market prediction skills and make an easy billion dollars or two for yourself.


The real genius is, he left it alone and gave it autonomy. That in contrast to Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo that can't seem to resist the allure of 'synergy'.

I bet most people don't even know Instagram is owned by facebook.


I don't know, a lot of acquisitions are left alone for 2-3 years. In my experience that doesn't work, and instead just delays the real integration for 2-3 years. Often times while having a less valuable property, 2-3 years later on.

The real genius is, accurately evaluating if the teams are able to be left alone, with autonomy. And then moving on that accurate evaluation with quickness, and efficiency.

If that's leave them alone, then integrate them with HR/etc, and let them be autonomous. If that's integrate fast, and heavy, then immediately start having regular working meetings with teams in other locations to limit the little brother syndrome of acquisitions.

But getting the path right, is the genius in my view. It isn't as simple as always leaving the teams alone.


It wasn't left alone. Instagram's API became a lot more restrictive after Facebook's acquisition and they are implementing a lot of features from Facebook's obsession with competing with Snapchat ( Live, stories etc...) Not saying it's a bad thing.


Wasn't Tumblr mostly left alone? I've never used it, but looking now I don't notice any overt Yahoo influence.


The impact isn't necessarily overt in this type of situation. Not just talking about Tumblr/Yahoo, but in general -- when evaluating an acquisition after-the-fact, there's more than just overt branding to consider. Think about amount of support from the parent company, rate of feature rollouts, ad quality, company culture, turnover / morale, hiring bar, internal transfers, etc.

Despite being an M&A buzzword, synergy is really important and doesn't mean meddling or interference. With Instagram and Facebook, consider that FB already had massive expertise in growing a successful social network, and ditto regarding infrastructure, as well as monetization. FB also advertises Instagram in-app for free. And Instagram is "cool" so there's major motivation for talented people at FB to do an internal transfer to Instagram.

Similar situation with YouTube and Google. e.g., Google was undoubtedly able to increase YouTube's growth rate by virtue of being the top search engine and tightly integrating all YouTube content into Google search.

With Tumblr and Yahoo, it's just not the same situation. They aren't headquartered on the same coast; their audiences don't overlap, which is especially bad for monetization; their products don't naturally interact in any way; the parent company has no experience with running a user-generated content property of this size; and the parent company has been viewed as being in decline for many years.


It was. Differences: Instagram's user base was still growing, mobile-first. Tumblr has plateaued, and still feels more like a web thing in a mobile world.

But anyway Yahoo didn't ruin Tumblr and that's a thing to be grateful for.


I think there were problems behind-the-scene that made a lot of Tumblr people unhappy.

http://www.businessinsider.com/yahoos-plan-to-combine-its-sa...


Indeed. It is hard to tell Instagram is even part of Facebook unless you look for it. There is no Facebook branding, etc. They made login/signup easier but that isn't unique to Instagram. The adverts are also not awful. Discovery is also pretty good, better than Twitter IMHO. Overall I still quite like Instagram even though I only post to it once every couple of months.


Instagram has become a lot less fun for me and my friends since the acquisition. Shortly after the acquisition, they removed custom places, and only allowed us to tag photos with Facebook places. And more recently they removed the photo map. I wish Facebook would kill Instagram quickly instead of slowly and painfully over time.


> I wish Facebook would kill Instagram quickly instead of slowly and painfully over time.

Instagram is not dying slowly, it's actually growing rapidly.


Just because they removed two feature (that I personally didn't even know existed, having used it before the acquisition) doesn't mean they're killing it


That seems like the real takeaway here. This is in good contrast with WhatsApp, which was almost left alone, but not enough so, and got a couple of bad headlines related since the acquisition.


Umm, WhatsApp might not be popular in the US but it's massively popular in India, Brazil and many other countries. IIRC they crossed 1B users a few months ago, and continue to grow. At acquisition, they were at 400M.

If you look at how messaging has become the primary monetization platform in China, I would argue that WhatsApp is much more critical to Facebook's long term success globally than Instagram.

And the MO seems the same from my outsider perspective - they were mostly left alone till very recently.


I'm not saying it wasn't a good call for FB to buy WhatsApp from a business perspective, but I am thinking that had they left it alone, as in, not screwed around with it, it would have kept growing just as well, maybe even more so than it now that a share of people stopped trusting it as much.


I think it wasn't left alone at all.

It was turned upside down.

The old main feature: pay-a-reasonable-fee-to-chat-privately was taken behind the barn and shot dead.

I and my friends have now moved almost every group I was a member of over to Telegram (there is one left). And yes I know Whatsapp might have stronger encryption but for us that doesn't matter.


TG is my messenger of choice as well and I am really more happy with it in every aspect, sans the encryption. I sincerely wish they would do something to get that up to current standards. I'd pay to use that, too.


I live in Spain and most people I talk to doesn't know about Instagram's acquisition by FB, but I also believe they're mistaken with what they're doing with WhatsApp, basically I got an ad about a Gin brand and I had never mention or looked for this online, I just talked to my friends about it... and boom!! hehe


yeah idk if it's just me but instagram ads seem so much more intrusive and personal than facebook ones. what creeps me out is that i hardly ever use the service yet they can target ads since i use facebook


I agree, but Google did well with YouTube, despite their meddling. I suppose the margins of advertising allow for a lot of mistakes.


Dumb question, but what is it about Instagram that made it so huge?

Snapchat I actually get, since it's presenting a new kind of communication model. Facebook I get. But Instagram is just like any old image gallery, with a very rudimentary comment system and almost no features unrelated to image uploading.


I agree with what everyone else has responded with about what makes instagram so huge, but there is something else that made it popular:

You only upload 1 photo.

True, someone can dump a lot of photos one at a time, but I think that's a bit of an instagram faux pas. It tends to be that if someone is on vacation (for instance) they don't dump all their photos on instagram, they choose their one best photo, crop it, add a filter to it, and try to make it great. You don't create an album like you do on facebook. This makes the quality of what you see in your feed a lot higher than what you would see on facebook. I've been told by a few heavy users of instagram that this is what they love about it.


This is one aspect. Another is the ease of simplifying making a great photo. A large portion of more advanced photo editing is just moving various sliders around trying to find something that looks nice (yes, i'm oversimplifying) .. but taking this concept and putting it in the hands of regular users at no cost allows people the ability to take even crappy photos and make them look nice.

Even before instagram allowed full size photos, I was using another app to allow the whole photo to be edited, and then cropping the photo after, and then printing them out. My entire apartment is decorated with framed photos that I edited slightly in instagram, but you'd never know because the edits are very subtle. (to be clear i never even posted these photos to instagram, just used the app as the editor)

If you've ever edited a photo in instagram you realize the difference between the end result and what you started with.

Giving what used to be only reserved for people with expensive software and fancy computers to regular people (and making it easy), is definitely a huge piece of it too.


And another is having only a square aspect ratio, which simplifies framing for shooting, cropping AND displaying the photos (clean square grid, no pain from phone rotation to see landscape photos).


They actually got rid of this a little while ago, you can now share horizontal & vertical images within a range of aspect ratios [0].

[0] https://help.instagram.com/1631821640426723


My adolescent sister has straight told me she took down a photo of myself and her as a kid because it did not support her IG aesthetic.

IG is good because of that and this pushes IG to be more about experiences over BS news and meme-macros that set a FB feed into garbage. (Depending on the person obviously.) But the incentives for interaction are very different than those with a somewhat more "traditional" social app like FB. Furthermore it lacks the update nonsense of FB such that it doesn't feel like a chore to keep up with updates. The stream passes and what you miss you miss.


I think that is an important piece. That does make it feel more artistic and polished for sure.


Instagram was the first app of its kind to make phone cameras social.

At the time, about the only thing you could do with pictures you took with your phone was sync.

Instagram was released at a critical moment in history when phone cameras were starting to get good and cellular Internet was starting to get fast enough to reliably upload them.

You can't look at the landscape today and ask "Why is instagram popular?". You have to look at it in its historical context.

Source: radio interview with the founders


Facebook had image uploading via mobile at the same time instagram was purchased. So it isn't just that.

Instagram smartest thing they did was leverage the Facebook social graph (something much harder to do now) to integrate instagram photos as posts in the feed, so that when a user clicked on them, you ended up at instagram rather than staying inside Facebook.


Instagram was a camera + profile app. Snapchat was a camera+message.

Facebook took a long time to get mobile right. Instagrams simplicity, and Facebooks lack of response was what allowed Instagram to grow. And dont forget Instagram was originally more a photo hosting adoon for twitter, similar to imgur to reddit.


> leverage the Facebook social graph (something much harder to do now)

Could you give a bit more details about this?



For anyone interested in listening to the interview, I believe aroman is referring to "How I Built This" from NPR: https://www.npr.org/player/embed/493923357/494083296


As an aside, our most successful projects were similar to this. Right place, right time, and people on HN would probably assume the MVP could be built in a week, which was true at least in our cases.


Yup. They were first and they iterated & made it great. Didn't even have to write an Android version for a while.

When you compare the amount of work required to get a startup off the ground then to what is required now. (dual mobile platforms & web & social) And the total number of apps & services. It's a deluge of information.

Then is there much change to start a service or company these days & see success? Maybe I'm getting too old, but normally I'd be full of ideas. These days I can't think of any.


The most distinctive thing about IG to me is that it is a 'safe space for narcissism'.

I agree with the other posters on Instagram's features leading to a lower volume of higher quality content.

The UI makes the app very much about sharing photos you've taken, making content about things you have done not things you have seen on the web. And the app lets you know that those things should be beautiful. By default profiles are public, making content production more selective, and content discovery less based on personal connections.

What's most interesting to me is how the product shaped the cultural norms on the service.

If Facebook is the lowest-friction/highest-distribution place to share what's going on inside your head, IG is the place for leisure choices as identity. There's not a range of reactions, because everything on the service should be an expression of individual pleasure.

Many posts and feeds seem to focus on conspicuous, aspirational consumption (apparel, beauty products, cocktails, destinations, art galleries, etc.). It was a very smart choice for an ad-network.


Why is Hacker news so popular, with its rudimentary comment system? The user community.

Instagram became popular with the right celebrities at the right time - someone internal to the company no doubt has the user acquisition timeline and has worked out who the "patient zero" was. This sparked a wave of people joining to follow them and has effectively supplanted OK! magazine and similar. Just have a look at the most popular accounts:

http://www.dailydot.com/debug/most-followed-instagram-accoun...

There's essentially two big themes represented there, female celebrities and footballers.


Filters were a relatively new thing. It was executed so well that any crap photo was instantly turned into a piece of art without needing any special skill or experience. Other apps had (and still has) filters, but they looked kinda lame. They feel like an afterthought.

The sharing and social factor was built in. Take a photo and sharing was automatic, which is pretty neat.

The name was also a huge factor. Photo Filter App 2.0 wouldn't have cut it.


Isn't it crazy to think you might have a great product, but the only reason it fails to go viral is the name


+ it's really hard to detect a failure point. I never read a postmortem post that featured "and we had a rather silly name". A good name can make or kill a brand. It should be obvious but often it's undervalued or overlooked.

It's fine releasing under a temp name, but you have to make it a top priority to change it asap. I could rant on this for long, but the long story short for B2C products it's essential. If you deliver surveillance software for governments you can get away with anything.


Filters might have been a new thing to smartphone apps with friction-free uploading, but reasonable filters with cute names were included in software bundled with the very first digital cameras...


I think that it's a case where fewer features is a benefit. It's a very mobile-focused platform, where adding tons of features tends to be more confusing than helpful. Do few things and do them well.

It's probably also a case-study in how to market social networks. Get the right people on at the right time, so people want to get on and follow them, and then post their own content.


For me and a lot of my friends the increased popularity of Instagram is entirely about how we hate Facebook but don't want to abandon our FB connections.

So we use IG as our primary way to say hello, send an update, and register a Like. And then we go on FB when we have more time, or want to share a link, or whatever. But this is less and less common, judging by the relative activity I see on IG vs FB for my own connections. (And even a lot of the regular FB users are cross-posting all their photos now.)

As such it's not that great a photo-sharing UI, but it works and it doesn't require Yet Another Social Graph.

I don't know how much this is a factor in IG's continued growth in the face of Snapchat -- after all I'm talking about a cohort 30 and older. But my gut tells me it's significant.


Enforced image sizing to make pictures "glanceable" while also being the only thing on the screen, preventing overwhelm.

Making it easy to positively reinforce your friends' content creation.

Fine-grained filtering of content that's relevant to you.


I used Instagram when it first came out as a way to put filters on my photos, I didn't realize it was posting to a social network until 6 months later.

Luckily none of the photos were too embarrassing.


The filters are a big part of it I'd say. Definitely contributed highly to its appeal and fun-factor.


They also helped mask how terrible the image quality of cellphone photos were at the time (they are, of course, much, much better now).


The one thing that bothers me more than it should is that their image viewing totally sucks.

You can't enlarge an image you're viewing. Designed for mobile first, yet the size you view an image at is tied to whatever size your phone screen is. Why? I'm sure the image they are sending over the wire isn't at all as small as your screen, so why restrict it like that?


Based on discussions with my wife and her friends, that's a feature, not a bug. You can post beach pictures for example, and be relatively comfortable knowing that people can't (casually) zoom in.


IG introduced pinch to zoom just a while back fwiw

I discovered it on accident


Wow, that makes the app so much better for what I use it for (following Instagram girls obviously)


> Dumb question, but what is it about Instagram that made it so huge?

I'd like to think the quality of their app has something to do with it. Unlike almost every mobile app I use, it's a joy to use (Android version). It's always snappy (this is huge), things always flow well, there is a ton of little detail functionality in there but it never overwhelms.

It's also great to see people's posts for a location you've tagged in your shot and compare their experience to yours. Or just find them. I know no other social network that does this so well.

It's the only social network I've stuck with and gotten any joy out of.


User base I think is the value here.


The purchase of instagram was a pre-IPO move to prop up Facebooks offering as a mobile company before their core product had actually transitioned. Investors major question was if FB could transition from desktop to mobile at the time, and Mark needed something to back that up. Mark had been quite vocal about Facebooks guesses around mobile, html5, apps and how he needed to reorganize the product teams but couldn't get the story together in time. Thus instagram.

The logic in both the article and most of the comments seems to utterly forget the context of which FB was in at the time.


I think you have a great point looking at the deal in hindsight, however Instagram couldn't have looked that impressive to the typical institutional investor at the time. Facebook already had 845 million monthly active users with a large portion using mobile. Instagram was much smaller and if anything people were skeptical if a social network could be profitable. The acquisition could've made Zuckerberg look wreckless and backfired.


I'm mostly quoting and summarizing Mark.


They tried to get Snapchat for $3B 3 years ago too, which also would have been a good buy, given Snapchat's growth trajectory, upcoming IPO and latest reported $20B valuation.

And Instagram is now cloning major Snapchat features outright in the race to compete in mobile attention.


I hate the way Instagram allows people to sign up and use the service without verifying the email address they used to sign up with. I'm assuming this is the case after someone used my email to create a profile on Instagram.

I started receiving notification emails from Instagram a few weeks ago, which I ignored at first thinking they were fake. On closer inspection they actually were from Instagram, so I clicked "forgot password" on the Instagram website, reset their password, logged in and deleted all their content and permanently deleted their account. By the looks of it, the profile belonged to some kid - a few family photos and so on.

It's quite slack of Instagram that this is possible. They should not be allowing people to create profiles and use the service before first verifying the email address used to sign up with. I guess basic verification is trumped by the need for "active users" to motivate these "stroke of genius" articles.


I still don't understand why Instagram took off, and I'm a millennial. You could already post pictures to Facebook when it came out. What advantage did Instagram offer over Facebook? Filters? I just don't understand my peers and I don't understand this industry sometimes.


Instagram was uncluttered. People posted original content. The content was typically once a day and people would spend 5 minutes "getting the right angle" and other 10 minutes picking the right filter. Today my Facebook feed is clogged with people reposting links, videos, or photos that are more click bait than news worthy. Instagram still allows me to see what my network is up to without the political headlines


Politics, 9gag, and general clickbait are killing Facebook. It's hideous. Stopped using it after unfollowing most of my "friends". Never looked back.

Also a random pretty girl pic gets 1000 likes while a good original post gets 100 if lucky. Why bother.


You sound incredulous that Instagram took off while also admitting you don't understand it's appeal... That doesn't seem like someone open to understanding the appeal :)


better mobile experience, freedom from your old friend list.


A lot of people ask why Instagram took off and get a lot of different answers; I think that's the beauty of it.

I wasn't much of an Instagram user for a long time until I started getting into photography. I'm still a total photography noob, but now my feed of pictures is a combination of friends and amazing photographers that serve as inspiration. I deleted my Facebook account a couple months ago and haven't looked back. Whereas I spent time on Facebook scrolling through vitriol, my time on Instragram is a constant stream of friends lives and beautiful pictures.

I've realized a shallow social network is all the social network I need.


> I've realized a shallow social network is all the social network I need.

Wow. That is so true. Certainly for a certain class of acquaintance/friend, all you really need is the lightest connection (but you still want a connection).


Live video will be bigger on instagram than would be on facebook, snapchat or periscope. It is way more easy, fast and better looking than any other app that do live video IMO.

They only need to make a better discovery option than the "Follow someone".


from the live IG videos I've seen it looks exactly like Periscope. As the broadcaster is the experience better?


I was in San Francisco when this deal was announced, and I still remember all my supposedly "tech startup savvy" friends mocking Zuckerberg for buying a company with no revenue for a billion dollars. And yes, this group even included a Harvard MBA grad pursuing a career in entrepreneurship. It's no coincidence that this was the same group of people who also mocked Facebook's IPO valuation of ~$70B as proof that we were in a bubble. If there's one thing I learned from that experience, it's that people have no idea how to appraise high-growth high-potential ventures.


I think the lesson is social media is a form of fashion, and Facebook may have to continuously by new upstarts to stay trendy.


People going to Instagram to escape their existing Facebook connections. Starting a new graph on Instagram that is restricted to their current and more private interests. What I've observed.


People do it within Instagram even, known as "finstagrams":

>Finstagram (Finsta) is student's fake (or second) Instagram account. Students, usually girls, get a second Instagram account along with their real Instagrams (Rinstagrams), to post silly pictures or videos.


Exactly this. In facebook I am friends with everyone I know from high school. It feels depressing to go on facebook nowadays, because it's just littered with political vomit and rehashed memes. In Instagram I follow only my current high school friends, and generally people that have cool lives. Going on instagram feels much better.


I'm doing art as a career after my comp sci degree and instagram is just perfect for me. The fact that instagram is pics only works very well for visual artists, and I can easily share my work in a relaxed sort of way. There's also tons of other artists on instagram and the way it's set up I can easily see their pieces of artwork much more easily than twitter/facebook.

Also Facebook is a dead zone now. It's literally pointless political junk and rehashed memes shared by "friends". The only usage I have for it is to message my old friends.

Snapchat is also starting to die out ever since Instagram implemented their own "snapchat" feature. IMO Instagram just does it better than snapchat. Snapchat is just too bloated for me. See with instagram I can follow someone like Kanye West, see his life in cool pics and his "snaps" in a convenient way.


Yep. Kudos to them, I remember thinking this was one of the dumbest acquisitions I had heard of, until Whatsapp. But Instagram has been a huge success.

The thing is that the Instagram and Whatsapp acquisitions are responsible for fueling this idea that all you need to do is create growth, and Facebook and/or Google will pay billions to acquire your company. Snapchat would never have gotten funding if there wasn't this dream that this could happen. We'll see if Snapchat is worth the $25B that is purported for their IPO, but I think those two acquisitions were the catalyst for all of this.


I can't imagine Snapchat not being worth $25b. They should be (in theory) minting money with all the native ads they sell.


I never mocked this deal. I always thought this was a small price to pay for insurance that Instagram wouldn't subsume Facebook. It was only 1% of Facebook.

But I still think $19 billion was about $17 billion too much for WhatsApp. It's a messaging product that doesn't directly threaten Facebook the way Instagram does. They could have created 10x $1 billion teams to compete and easily done better than what they have with WhatsApp. It seems like a cowardly use of $19 billion. Oculus cost them $2 billion and there are many other breakthroughs that are equally underpriced.


WhatsApp already replaced FB chat in various regions. And FB is already kind of a ghost town, beside elder 50+ new-comers who got their first smartphone just recently - in various regions. If you live in a filter bubble, where FB is still very on-vouch, great, but it depends on your friends and geographic. Many have the FB or messanger app still installed but rarely open it (because you can't even remove it from eg Samsung phones, only a few know that it's possible to deactivate it). That said, WhatsApp (the app) feels very cumbersome to use, compared to competitors from other countries.

So Instagram and WhatsApp are what keeps Facebook ahead. FB itself (the social network site) is probably past its peak (in various regions).


I think the brilliance of Instagram is how they solved the problem of image ratio and rendering to different devices -- make everything a square. About the time of the purchase Facebook engineers and designers had been making talks about image layout. (I'll edit this if I find the bookmark to the link.) I wonder if the purchase was an extension of finding a working solution to working with images of different sizes, orientations, and aspect ratios.


I remember thinking this was a silly move, but my greatest regret is that I did not reserve my preferred user name in time. This means I'll never really be able to use the service.


> This means I'll never really be able to use the service

I think you mean "This means I'll never really want to use the service."


Instagram is what will take down Snapchat or at least defend Facebook against Snapchat's offensive. Snapchat refuses, for good reason to its product, to enact discoverability which Instagram (thanks to Facebook's expertise) handles perfectly.

Instagram has also added to Facebook's main product through the autoplay videos, a tech that FB engineers could not get to work until the Instagram acquisition.


Let's be honest here. FB bought IG because they were the competition and what was the end result? Those guys at IG got benched for years and haven't done much since. So they won, if money was the goal. But if the goal was winning hearts and minds, and making an impact on the industry, they got sidelined. They lost. IG will never reach it's full potential. So yes, a good purchase on FB's part. But for IG? Debatable.


while not their main demographic I'm sure my wife and a lot of her friends only post to instragram now because she realized all she cared about on facebook were the pictures and the amount of ads in her feed were getting to her.

Her entire network solely posts on instragram and lets it link to facebook. She finds it a lot more uplifting than the endless political stuff shown to her on facebook.


How has Instagram not won hearts and minds? It's an absolutely massive social platform used by a ton of teenagers / young folks. Tons of people use it as their primary form of social media consumption.


I'm so confused how you came even remotely close to your completely wrong conclusion. IG has won in almost every way imaginable. Now that Snapchat is the new threat, IG has been aggressively copying their features and it's working.


Which they had years to already work on and leap ahead, but now they're playing catch up.

I came to this conclusion by wondering, who sold IG? I can't remember. I can't remember who created it to be honest. Because now they're a footnote. Everything they've done they could've easily done without Facebook and become a serious threat to FB and every other platform. But not now. Now they're on the bench. This is what competitors do. They buy you up and make sure you never work on anything that competes, and everything you do they take credit for.


I think about this whenever a startup is acquired and everyone here balks at the price. Turns out $1B was a bargain for Instagram.


Similar outrage was had after Snapchat turned down a few billion-dollar offers and raised money at multi-billion dollar valuations;

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7150927

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6671371

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9065240

Now they're planning to raise more cash in an IPO than many of the initial 'crazy' buyout offers at a valuation of something like $25 billion. And their CEO is engaged to a Victoria's Secret model. It turns out that there's more to building a business than complex engineering and one-of-a-kind services.


It turned into one of the best tech acquisitions ever, even better than YouTube because it actually makes a profit.


The article's position that being mocked by Jon Stewart is meaningful is silly.


Playing the lottery and winning doesn't retroactively make you a tactical genius. Facebook saw a rising competitor, threw cash at the problem- a page from the playbook of practically every major corporation in history- and in the fullness of time came out ahead. This is a story about nothing.


Agreed.

Look at what happened with Yahoo and Mark Cuban.


Hmmm... the headline is succinct and probably is satisfactory to summarize the entire article, but let's see if there is some deeper data or meaningful insight!

* Clicked link to read article

* Immediately overwhelmed by fullscreen overlay ad

* Closed fullscreen overlay ad to attempt to read article

* Immediately assaulted by blasting volume autoplay video ad

* Rather than read article, scroll around and attempt to quickly locate blasting volume autoplay video ad to mute or stop

* Unable to quickly find and mute the blasting autoplay nuisance ad, instead decide to close the browser tab without reading even a word of the article

* Remembered to enable adblock in Canary

What a great web experience!


That's why my adblock is always on.


Typical progression for me:

Adblock auto-enabled => I like this site, I think I'll disable adblock to support the creator => Autoplay video ad blasting || ad displays over content || full screen ad appears without a clear exit => Adblock auto-enabled


It used to be the same for me, now I just pay for the 5-10 quality sites that I read often enough for me to miss them if they stop existing.


I get it and use an adblocker to fight off the more egregious ads (autoplay, overlays, popups, etc), but most websites are ad supported and I don't have an issue with standard banners.

The irony seems to be that ad companies are overcompensating for adblockers by offering more intrusive ads, which then inspires more adblocking, which then inspires even more intrusive ads, and the cycle repeatedly escalates.


You can mute all sound coming from a tab. Right click the tab and select "Mute tab".


I run Umatrix where I disable Javascript by default and allow portions on approved sites, BGR doesn't require Javascript to display the articles so no issue reading here, but I do agree that many sites are just horrible at launch ad placement.


I did not have any of these problems using ublock origin.




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