Witty jokes aside, consensus seems to be that Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram is primarily a play for mobile. Facebook mobile offers little, if anything, of value over the desktop version. Links redirect users from the mobile app to the mobile web and back again, while Instagram offers a powerful yet seamless way to rapidly share and explore beautiful photos on the go–that is, when you’re in a position to take a photo of something more interesting than yourself in the mirror. You might say it’s the Facebook of (mobile) pictures–a social platform for sharing images, which in turn have the potential to reflect experience in a more meaningful–and aesthetically pleasing–way than text-based status updates.
Facebook claims it won’t interfere with the existing Instagram platform, but it will certainly look to make the app foster sharing on Facebook, as well as perhaps make it possible to apply filters to existing Facebook photos. There’s also already been talk of Instagram images becoming more like ads, perhaps with promoted pictures appearing in Instagram (or Facebook) feeds similar to the way “Liked” companies can promote status updates to their audience.
Instagram is Facebook’s first acquisition in a while, but with an impending IPO the company may be looking to acquire some other potential competitors before they have the opportunity to gain too much traction. We previously pondered whether Pinterest could become the Facebook of products. Perhaps Facebook will accelerate the Facebook-ification of Pinterest by acquiring the company and using it to help people aggregate the (Instagrammed?) images that they and their friends take.
Right now, Facebook is primarily about the user activity, especially the news feeds, which may incorporate content like images and videos. But there’s not enough creativity to it. It used to be exciting to post status updates and upload photo albums to Facebook. Now that’s old hat, and Facebook competitors are coming up with much more exciting ways to support user creativity–the common element that appeals to Instagram and Pinterest (and Storify, though less is made of that network) users. Make your own sweet-looking retro photos? Create your own bulletin board online? Awesome! By contrast, just posting content on Facebook isn’t exciting. Timeline was an initial effort to foster further creativity, allowing you to write your own story year by year, but the final effect just isn’t (yet) interesting or beautiful enough.
Facebook needs services like Instagram, Pinterest, and Storify to help make its network creative again. Users can tag you in their content and (likely cruddy, non-filter-enhanced) photos. But it’s hard to aggregate content on Facebook. You can’t create your own photo album that combines your favorites from all your friends’ photos of an event, for example. Instagram and Pinterest could help make this possible, making Facebook into the place where you not only share your story, but also write it with others–and make it more beautiful.
If Instagram beautifies, Pinterest and Storify aggregate, and Facebook shares, is this the ultimate platform for future interactions?