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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
"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.
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 can´t stand the way that Facebook handles privacy anymore.
$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.
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.
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?