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Instagram is acquired by Facebook (blog.instagram.com)
293 points by lewispb 1931 days ago | hide | past | web | 88 comments | favorite

Can someone please tell me how Instagram's actual content is worth anything? We're talking about photo-filtered cell phone camera shots here. Facebook doesn't need a user acquisition ploy.

I guess maybe it's a move to keep users in Facebook, but I'd be willing to bet a million bucks that almost everyone is discovering Instagram content via Facebook or Twitter.

Seems like mostly a huge waste of cash.

IMO Instagram had a huge potential to be the next big social network. I think Mark noticed it too and bought before it became too big.

Instagram has a social network!? I must be missing something when I open their app. It seems like a "add a funny filter to your picture" sort of thing.

A user in another thread aptly described it as Twitter with pictures. I don't use Instagram and don't really see a reason to, but that doesn't mean others feel the same way.

Roughly speaking, you might say:

    Facebook:  Social with everyone      (polysocial?)
    Path:      Social with close friends (oligosocial?)
    Pair:      Social with your S.O.     (monosocial?)
    Twitter:   Microsocial in text with everyone
    Instagram: Microsocial in pictures (nanosocial? :P)
Having said that, I actually had a recent discussion with someone about how the heck they were going to monetize the service, and we didn't reeeally come up with a good suggestion aside from the expectable ads and premium filters. Instagram: Microsocial with everyone

For those people who were clueless as me about Path and Pair and found them hard to Google: Path - https://path.com/ Pair - http://trypair.com/

Pair is actually quite a cool idea, never heard of it before now.

Couples like to hang out with other couples, so there might be revenue potential in the idea as well...

You might be right that was their thinking, but it's a long trek from photo sharing to ubiquitous social network.

Photo sharing is something that everyone is trying desperately to solve. When I open the G+ app on my iPhone it wants to upload all the new photos it can find on the phone. I would imagine the Facebook app does the same thing, but I don't know. The OS has cloud storage for photos baked in. When I plug the phone into my computer, Dropbox wants to automatically find and upload the photos.

Everyone is trying to get into this, and for good reason, I think.

My family is filled with people that always have access to a camera and to the internet via their phone. We're spread out geographically and don't get to see each other very often. There is a HUGE opportunity to bring us closer together that would be greatly valuable to us. I would love it if part of our daily routine included looking at all of the photos anyone in the family has taken in the last day.

There are lots of solutions for us to do this, but for whatever reason, nothing has taken hold. Maybe everything is too manual, or maybe social networks are still focused too much on the browser and not enough on mobile. But for whatever reason, it's not happening for us. I suspect we are not alone and I think the explosion of people trying to get me to buy into putting my photos on their free service is indicative of this.

> Photo sharing is something that everyone is trying desperately to solve.

Honestly - is this not a solved problem? I have a hard enough time choosing what service to use to share pictures on, there's not exactly a dearth of services in this space.

It's something everyone knows how to do from a technology standpoint, which is why so many services are trying to do it. But from a user experience standpoint I don't see anyone really nailing it. And I think for this you really want to nail it even for people who are not very good at all at using technology.

I think the problem stems from that no one actually have any pictures they want to share on a daily basis (exception might be pictures of babies). Instagram solved it by inventing shareable pictures of nothing.

While I can appreciate the idea of a "daily picture" (or whatever) in a more diary-form this is a completely different beast than a family photo / vacation photo / group activity photo etc., such photos only get better with time where an instagram is useless a social-minute after it was shot.

I've got the photos-that-get-better-with-time problem nailed, but I don't think it can be as viral as daily-nothing apps. Nostalgia tends to be more individual; daily-nothing is entirely social.

Found both of your comments here incredibly interesting. We're working on solving this problem with FamilyLeaf (YC W12): http://familyleaf.com

I'd love to have you try it out to help keep your family in touch, and maybe even talk further about your ideas around the problem. Please ping me at ajay[at]familyleaf.com

There is definitely a lot of social fatigue. I have cared less and less about my friends' hiking pictures over the years---and family and a few very close friends might be the largest group I will ever closely follow. It will be interesting to see what you guys come up with.

I still cannot send pictures of my daughters to my mother reliably (or more accurately, she cannot receive them). It's not solved by a long shot from my point of view.

Can you tell more about your mother's situation? Is there wifi where she lives?

Yeah - she has all the tech she needs. She's just really bad at using it. How do you share folders with someone who doesn't really understand even the basics of finder? It has to be automatic for me, and foolproof for her. If either element is missing, it doesn't happen.

To respond to the comments below/above: a digital frame w/ RSS may be a good option - I may try that. It still isn't perfect, but it's better than what I've been doing. (Emailing, and then having to explain over and over again what a "Downloads" folder is, and why you can't print images sized for the web).

Some complications that continue to annoy me, though: she wants to print them. She wants them on her ipad. She wants them on her iphone. I hate manually sorting out which ones she would like to see and uploading them to whatever service.

The holy grail for me? I take a picture with my DSLR, and it knows who to send it based on what I took a picture of. If it's for my mom, it appears on all of her devices, which have "print" buttons on them that will make nice, printed versions show up in her mailbox. I don't think this is that far off, but it doesn't exist yet in idiot-proof form.

I've got idiot-proof iPhone, iPad and desktop viewing. Print ordering is not idiot-proof yet.

Just get a digital photo frame that does rss, point it to your flickr account. She doesn't need to do anything, latest photos will show up on her frame

r4vik's solution makes it foolproof for her. As far as making it automatic for you, please check out OurDoings Dropbox integration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7r93TDJeZyI&context=C4a04...

OurDoings has RSS better than Flickr.

Private Flickr bookmark with a browser that signs you in automatically?

Which one are you using?

It depends for what:

- FB for photos for my relatives/friends that have FB accounts

- Posterous/G+ for more personal photos (just neat stuff I take a picture of)

- Costco Photos for my parents-in-law

I guess that last one is the "unsolved problem" bit, but there are blocking logistical issues to even get them on the internet that may not get solved any time soon.

It's not necessarily that Instagram would become a viable competing alternative to Facebook on its own. Rather, it seems reasonable to imagine that Facebook would be concerned about the widespread adoption of third-party, cross-platform social infrastructure, as provided by Instagram.

Instagram, in providing a photo sharing experience (at least) on par with Facebook's, spanning multiple "social platforms", facilitates user migration across these platforms. In the current context, any user migration between social platforms would (almost) inevitably dilute Facebook's share of user-time.

Thus, it seems reasonable for Facebook to acquire this possible avenue of departure and generally maintain its current state while guiding future evolution of Instagram's product to subtly guide the flow of users along "Instagram Avenue" towards Facebook, rather than in its current unbiased direction.

Though useful from a business perspective, this sort of defensive acquisition is discouraging to me. I would prefer to see the evolution of "social" in general towards an open protocol for maintaining the actual user<->user graph structure and piping of information along it, with a loose confederation of services such as Instagram providing the content hosting/delivery. This would decentralize control of people's social graphs, with control being restricted to subsets of the shared content and its flow over the graph, rather than the actual graph structure itself. I.e. market-driven services such as Instagram would compete to control portions of the infrastructure implementing this new construction, which one might call the "world wide (social) web".

TLDR: Facebook's purchase of Instagram permits them to simultaneously reduce the instantaneous rate of user migration across social platforms while preventing the emergence of a competitive open social platform/protocol, the evolution of which would be greatly facilitated by the prior existence of third-party social content infrastructure such as Instagram, which reduces the size of the "chicken and egg" problem confronting any attempt at an open platform.

But that is how Facebook won the opening salvos of the ongoing social media competition. They had easy to use photo sharing wrapped in the veneer of social commenting so people could share photos and interact with each other (about the photos) easily. As an anecdote, this was the compelling reason most everyone I knew migrated from Xanga over to FB--they could share all their photos and interact with their friends in one spot.

Instagram took the whole photo sharing idea and ran with it to the next level to include multi-platform sharing and picture editing. Put a social wrapper of some sort around that, and you're back where FB was when it took off several years ago--exception being you have BETTER photos.

TL;DR Photos win the social networking game. Good photo sharing + easy to use social == winning formula, see FB's early years and reasons for adoption.

Moving photos from one service to another is doable, but it requires a LOT of effort from the average user (relatively speaking). Even if another company made an "import instagram photos to service X", the perceived effort of moving would prevent most users from finding such an import feature and making the move.

Photos are a pretty solid natural barrier that could protect Instagram while they made that long trek.

That being said, stickiness and perceived lock-in with photos doesn't make the trek any less arduous.

Facebook's success is largely staked on the fact its the world's most popular and successful photo sharing application. Any viable competition in that space is a real threat to Facebook's dominance in this area, its a strategic move

At least in part, this was a defensive purchase. A huge amount of facebook's traffic, pull, data costs, etc. are probably photos. Instagram is a photo-based social network.

Actually, this was probably a tech buy for the photo filters. Totally.

I think the point that everyone is missing here, is how heavily integrated Instagram is in non-Facebook social networks (i.e. twitter and Flickr). Yes, part of the valuation was due to Instagram being an up and coming social network. But the main value of this acquisition comes from the fact that, with this single purchase, Facebook is able to leverage multiple social network's userbases into their own.

From captain Zuck's post on Facebook "We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience." (https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10100318398827991)

Users are the product.

They're buying a competitor (Yahoo and Excite had a change to buy a tiny Google) so why take the chance?

And they're buying part of it with stock. It just doesn't feel like it's real money so FB doesn't see it as a $1 Billion.

Lastly, Google doesn't buy it and add lots of activity to G+ almost immediately.

I didn't think about the G+ aspect, you're probably on the right track there.

Sound of a good app flushing down the toilet

Uninstalled. Congrats to founders though, well executed, guys.

Why? Just on principal that as soon as a big company buys a little company, the product will inevitably get worse?

Nothing has changed for the end user yet, has it?

Yes. The instant Facebook bought them, user trust went out the window. There is active, intense, well-founded mistrust by users regarding Facebook's ability or desire to protect user privacy in any way.

Indeed, anyone paying attention can see that Facebook actively and systematically attacks user privacy. Instagram just became part of that.

So yes, something has changed.

What exactly is it about Instagram that requires excellent user privacy protection? It's twitter for photos.

It never ceases to amaze me how much lip service people pay to the need for privacy on social networks that are fundamentally based on the premise of broadcasting your private life to a fairly large audience. If you REALLY don't want that photo of the sunset that you took to be seen by the wrong person, why post it online in the first place?

I see the following flaws in your comment:

1) Twitter is inherently much more public than Instagram. 2) "to a fairly large audience" is your personal assumption. Not all people use social media that way. 3) Photo of a sunset? That sounds like your being obtuse. Obviously many photos are much more personal than a sunset. 4) To be seen "by the wrong person"? Again, seems obtuse to me. The larger concern is the photo being permanently stored by the wrong corporation(s), to the eternal detriment of user privacy. 5) You are assuming that the user him/herself posts all photos of a given user. That is obviously not the case. Your photos, or photos picturing you, can be posted by others as well.

Suffice it to say, many users who do enjoy social media nevertheless do not want Facebook using everything they post for the next 25 years for marketing purposes. They don't want that content sold to other corporations, either. And there are many other possible legitimate privacy concerns.

Seems like you have your own "personal assumption as well".

It all depends on which "circle" or "bubbles" we live in.

In my mind, your arguments are flawed: my friends shared everything. My friends tweet their instagram food pictures. My friends posted their instagram sunset pictures on Facebook (seriously, I'm not joking).

Many of my friends and their friends enjoy social media and use Facebook heavily almost for everything including selling dresses, cupcakes, foods, services, shoes, lingeries, etc.

I'm not done yet: some of my female friends do have conversation about lingeries that they were tagged to on Facebook in Facebook.

Based on my "bubble", your "bubble" is the minority: a very small group of people who seem to be overly concerned with nothing.

It's probably cultural.

"your arguments are flawed: my friends shared everything"

(1) that doesn't respond to his argument.

(2) no they didn't share everything. Presumably they shared what they wanted to.

And here's the problem with Facebook, explicitly: If you upload something to facebook by mistake and it's something you didn't want to share, Facebook winks and says "ok we deleted it" but this has been shown false too many times for users to trust that they actually have control over their own content.

5) The fact that huhtenberg uninstalled Instagram will not prevent other people from taking pictures of huhtenberg.

Personally, I wouldn't touch anything Facebook with a long pole.

It was a good ride.

What's the next Instagram? Is there an alternative?

Lightbox seems to be gaining some traction, and it has a web interface too. I am considering it.

Camera Awesome from SmugMug is pretty good. There are some things I don't like but they have traction and a solid reputation as a company that will remain independent and VC-free.

The front page of HN is a brilliant example of why you should use the active voice when the passive is unnecessary. 403 points (active) vs. 150 points (passive).

Great A&B testing, guys.

No worries ;) To be fair the facebook announcement was posted 10 minutes prior to the instagram.com post and so generated discussion quicker.

For those of you that are looking for alternatives now:


I know they're saying they won't do another acquisition like this, but why not Pinterest too? It would make more sense to me than Instagram.


After only one week using Instagram for Android it was already my favorite network. Congrats for the Instagram team, but I cant deny that I just lost much of my sympathy for the network, since I canĀ“t stand the way that Facebook handles privacy anymore.

Well done to the guys at Instagram, they've accomplished a lot in 2 years I think.

Absolutely. It'll be interesting to see how Facebook take Instagram forward, and how features from Instagram will make there way into Facebook's photo product.

This Wired article[1] states that the first co-founder owned 40% of the company and the second co-founder owned 10% of the company at the time of acquisition.

This might suggest they started out with an 80/20 split.

Why? How did that split come about?

[1] http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2012/04/facebook-buys-instagr...

Kevin Systrom went all in at an earlier point. Discussed in more detail by the two of them here: http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2745 (video)

If photo filters are worth this much, I'm in the wrong business.

30,000,000 people using anything has got to be worth at least 9 figures.

$33 per user? That's optimistic.

$33 per user could make sense if this was a defensive acquisition as other HNers have suggested.

If G+ bought Instagram and it made enough of a difference in G+ activity to make G+ competitive with Facebook, I could see how it could knock $1 billion or more off Facebook's IPO price.

Remember, it's 30 million of the more active social network users. These are the same type of core users that Facebook had back in its early days that helped attract the other 750 million users it has.

My app has 7 users. Can I haz $200?

Is Google likely to acquire you? If they do, is it likely the acquisition will lower Facebook's IPO price?

Honest question about this: my buddy and I have a Facebook app with 21M registered users, with about 10% of that being monthly active. How would we compare?

If you have a Facebook app then FB can shut you down. You're not a threat. Likewise, if you have only a facebook app, then you are encouraging people to use facebook, so you are helping facebook.

I guess I didn't phrase my question clearly. Perhaps I should ask how does the value of a user on a Facebook app differ (qualitatively and quantitatively) from a mobile app user?

Active users are worth this much. Whatever you do that attracts and retains users will become valuable.

Processing several million photos a day from thirty million users is worth something.

Oh crap.... Facebook got their dirty hands on this one. :(

I wonder if Instagram has any patents that can be used in Facebook's patent war with Yahoo.

As a mobile social network, Instagram has no equal in the photo category.

It would be foolish to think that after a year and half a tech company with vc backing would not have at least 5 solid patents that could be used for defensive purposes.

Even if Instagram has patents that would in some way affect any yahoo holdings (specifically flickr), I don't see a $1 Billion value.

They have only been around for 2 years so they certainly have not been granted any patents. It is very unlikely they have even filed for any patents. Most startups will only file patents in their first few years if patents are a critical part of defending their business. Patents take a lot of time & money with very little payoff (they mainly protect you from being sued). It is not a good investment of a startups resources to be filing patents unless the patents are critical to the success of the business.

I think it is ridiculous. No need for user base, no need for technology. Even no serious business model. Anything I missed?

Does anyone know if Instagram will require facebook credentials to log in now? One major reason I have enjoyed Instagram is that it's a separate network away from facebook etc.

The big question is for how much?

One billion dollars. Seriously.

I don't want to live on this planet anymore

Because some people who are in the right place and at the right time and who work extremely hard and make smart moves can become inordinately wealthy? This makes life not worth living for you?

Don't forget that to the 2 billion people who live on about dollar a day, your material life is paradise and your wealth equally as appalling.

Larry didn't say he didn't want to live anymore, just not on this planet.

Ha... Want to get more depressed? Alexa reports that Instagram is ranked as the 6,534th most popular site on the Internet. Compete.com said it had 331,529 users last month. Seriously, what the heck? What kind of reality distortion field did they have to come up with to convince the Facebook guys that this was worth $1 billion dollars?

How is that a relevant statistic? I bet most Instagram users have never even visited the website.

What's Zynga.com ranked at?


Got evidence?

Kind of odd to see a Facebook property running ASP.NET :D

Congrats guys. This is really exciting stuff!

The last exciting acquisition I remember is Mint. One of those "must work hard" events.

And now google will notice that it needs decent photo integration on plus and do more innovation there than instagram ever dreamed.

or it will stagnate everything in the market like youtube did to video (and is slowly trying to repair recently).

Just get deja mi instead, way better app anyways!

F*ck Facebook... evil corporation of evil. Harbinger of a world without privacy, it dooms us all.

Although I agree, this goes without saying.

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