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TIMO ZIMMERMANN

balancing software engineering & infosec

Facebook And Instagram, Sitting In A Tree

posted on Tuesday 10th of April 2012 in ,

It is all over the news – Instagram was bought by Facebook for 1 Billion
Dollars. That are a lot of zeros. And for every one of them I have seen
at least 10 people predicting that Instagram will die and that they have
to use something else.

There are several reasons behind this and I believe that nearly all of
them are just
from the experience people have with services that were bought. Let us
take a short look what could happen and why it is possible that it just
does not matter in this special case where Google is not involved.

Talent Acquisition

When Twitter took over Posterous they stated that they were interested
in the talent of the employees. In this case I have to admit I also
believe that Posterous will be in trouble. If Twitter wants talent they
want it for Twitter, not for another product. Not as long as they are
not planning to extend Twitter into the region Posterous covers.

Instagram and Facebook work on completely different software stacks.
Of course they learned a lot of stuff scaling Instagram and they have
experience in a field and size most people do not but I believe Facebook
would also find other people, with more knowledge of their stack, for
far less money.

Buy And Die

I think we have seen this happen. Not only thanks to Google but other
companies as well. They buy a hot start up and it just dies because they
do not really have interest in the company or product, they just wanted
to kill a competitor that was better and ahead in the field they try
to conquer.

From my point of view Facebook and Instagram have a complete different
target audience. You upload nearly everything you see to Instagram while
you put personal content on Facebook. Of course you can also upload
everything to Facebook – and if there is no Instagram it would be an
option. But most people will not do this because they want to separate
their personal and “all day” content.

Typical Scenarios

I do not believe that this is one of those typical scenarios. There is too
much money involved for this to just kill a competitor or buy some people
that know how to scale a site.

According to interviews and press releases they plan to continue working
on Instagram. They try to keep it a separate service with a better
integration in various – not just Facebook – social networks. I love the
idea. I can understand that people do not really believe it. History showed
that other companies that release this information just plainly lie or
do not know what they are talking about since they were likely drunk while
writing the press release.

Facebook could be different. They know the value of ideas and start ups
and they also have lived it. They have a lot more experience than most
people that dominate boards. Of course I could be wrong, time will show.

Privacy

Beside the typical complains that Instagram will go the way of a typical
free as in beer start up there are privacy concerns now that Facebook
bought them. The “big blue guys” are not well known for their ability
to care about user data protection.

Before I say something to this point let me make three things clear.

Of course it is easy to flame Facebook, especially on your Google+ wall
(maybe you notice something?), but taking a look behind everything that
happened and understanding that they fucked up and tried to solve it
is a little bit harder.

Beside that they do not really gain anything from the typical Instagram
user and Instagram is just nothing I can connect with sensitive
informations. But maybe I am using it wrong,…

What To Do?

Well pretty easy. If you hate Facebook just use something else. If you
do not hate Facebook and do not plan on posting your newest work
contracts continue using Instagram.

I was joking around that I could now write my own solution. This could
be possible since I am working on a new CMS for hopelesscom. But time will
show, currently I am still a happy Instagram and Facebook user.