Facebook and the Death of Instagram
Instagram is starting to suck. You may have seen it coming when Facebook gobbled it up last April. But if you held out hope, the jig is up -- it's dying. And unless Mark Zuckerberg makes drastic, albeit unlikely, changes, it'll soon be dead. If you missed the hint amid privacy missteps in December, its Web-feature is your second chance. Last week, Instagram launched a service to let you browse your feed on a tablet, laptop or PC.
"We started to expand to the desktop Web, giving you the ability to see profiles from Instagram.com," CEO Kevin Systrom, wrote on the company blog. Great, right? Well, it would be, if it added to the experience. To start, you can't upload photos or apply filters through the Web. Oh, and that iconic orange box that tallies "likes" and comments? That's missing too. In fact, you can only view, like and comment on images.
So why add an update then? As Facebook's mantra of making the world more open, the changes turn Instagram from an intimate mobile experience into a very public one. Want to view photos? No need to sign in anymore. Just type in any username and view anyone's photos. If the account is public, you can see it.
What? You don't want a flow of strangers ogling your photos? Too bad. Zuck doesn't care about your privacy. Or rather, he knows what's best for you, even when you don't want it. But you already knew that. Instead, the Web service looks curiously like a vehicle to make money. There's ample white space down the side of feeds, convenient for Facebook-style sponsored posts. And Instagram's emphasis on photo-sharing is an advertiser's dream -- an ideal fit for lucrative image-heavy campaigns. Of course, the changes lay the foundation for other projects, like a rumored algorithm to figure out what posts to show in your feed. But more likely than not, Instagram is giving way to Facebook's culture and appeasing shareholders hungry for a return on that billion dollar investment.
So what can you look forward to? Cross-promotional advertising to clutter up your interface. After you click "like" on a page, for instance, you'll see ads for similar products. And who knows? Down the road, Instagram-inspired games may hit the scene. Tweens and teens flocked to the service because it did mobile better than anyone else. As a standalone app, the mobile-centric company blended artistic filters with photo-sharing features. Yes, you posted photos on Facebook and Twitter too, but by and large, you shared them between phones.
Instagram defined mobile photography -- finding meaning in those visual little bits of life. And it appealed to your emotions -- the last trait Facebook and its monotone CEO are known for. If Instagram is all about feeling, Facebook is a cold, soulless robot. And that's a bitter pill fans are now swallowing. The active artistic community is still vocal -- last year, it rallied to stop changes in the terms of service -- but unfortunately, the slow and subtle "Facebook-ization" is underway. Instagram is degrading from an intimate service into a boisterous money-making experiment -- a move that undermines the very heart of what made it popular.
Facebook won't change, which means that Instagram has to. You might still love it, but fans are starting to leave -- slowly at first and later in droves. But before then, bit by bit, it'll first be sucked dry, until it's a shell of its former self. ♦
Categories: Editorials & Opinion | Social Media