Loud ramblings of a Software Artisan

Monday 9 April 2012

On Facebook buying Instagram

This morning we learned that Facebook bought Instagram, and that Facebook paid something like 1B$. I'll skip the part where I find that this acquisition is highly overpriced, and I'll leave the speculation of who might have participated into a bidding to the analyst.

But one thing I'm sure is that they didn't buy Instagram for its revenue. What is being said is that Facebook paid 33$ per user, and quite a number of users. But what will they do with that? Simple. Monetize. And this might by the solution to my criticism of Instagram: adding a web frontend to it. A web frontend is IMHO the easiest way for Facebook to track their users. In the announcement Facebook promised to keep Instagram a separate entity, but even the owe anybody but themselves to hold that promise, they can do that and track users using a web based frontend, like all the "Like" buttons to all over the Internet. Similarly I don't see why they should remove the function to Tweet the picture. Quite the opposite, keep it, people click to view the picture, "leave" Twitter to go to that Instagram page, and voila. Checked in.

In the end, it will be a bit more like the Hotel California: you can check out anytime, but you can never leave.

If you don't like that, you can still go and request your account to be removed.

Mandatory Instagram. Deep Cove, BC.

Thursday 5 April 2012

On Instagram

Instagram just released the Android version of their application. Instagram allows you to take pictures with your phone, apply some filters, upload it to their service and then have user that follow you comment or favorite them. A sort of Twitter for images.

This led me to rethink why I dislike Instagram.

I dislike Instagram not because of the photographic aspect of applying random filter to random pictures to try to let them look cool, not because it is (was) an exclusive club for iOS users, users that are self entitled and angry[1] as there are also plenty of talented people whose work I have a lot of respect for. No, it is not about that ; well it could be but that would be a very opiniated rant that would make me look like a hater. It is about the technical aspect: it is not the web.

Let's see.

If I go to the main website of Instagram, I get offered to download the app for iPhone, for Android, and beside info about them, their blog, their jobs, all I can do is edit my account. Yes you got that: it is about taking and posting picture, and from there I can't even view anything. WAT?

Now when people share their Instagram picture on twitter, you get a link like this http://instagr.am/p/JAqNexzGZr/. At that URL, you can see the picture, the comments if any, and that's it. You can not decide to start following the person even if you have an account nor can you browse through the other pictures. And to get that URL I had to "share" the image view e-mail or Twitter. There was no other way to get it.

That's exactly where my issue is. One has to use the app on your phone (previously only iPhone - even though it worked with other iOS devices including iPad) to view the pictures and the people. It is not a web application, it is Instagram. Imagine if Facebook or Twitter was like that? It is not like technology is missing. All the browsing and social features can be done as a web application, and modern browser today would allow even the editing part of the picture, and soon the taking a picture part.

And, yes I have an Instagram account, yes I have posted a few pictures from my iPad and from my Nexus One, one having a better camera than the other. Suddenly I got a surge in follower with the Android version released. But what if I wanted to use it from b2g[2]? Even Flickr I can.

Mandatory Instagram:


[1] read the twitter stream of @AndroidAGram, what he re-tweets is priceless

[2] non-withstanding that the camera capture isn't functional yet on b2g