Actually, I think it’s pretty spot on.
Our relationship with free services
All of these free services—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even Tumblr (see section 6)—contain some language in their terms of service that goes a little somethin’ like this:
Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.
All those words boil down to this: yes, you own the copyright to original work you create, but publicly sharing any of it through [insert your free service of choice] means that you have granted said service an incredibly powerful and broad license to do with that work as it pleases, and it may very well not bother with tossing a dime your way.
They could use your photo on the landing page to attract new users to sign up for the service. They can sell your “anonymous” personal info to advertisers. Facebook can show your face as a recommendation next to an ad for a TV show page or product you liked. They could use a whole bunch of your photos in a pitch to businesses to sign up for premium services—you won’t get a dime, and they don’t need to ask permission because you already gave it to them in the terms of service you didn’t read when signing up.
To be crystal clear: I didn’t make that snarky statement to argue for condemning this type of business model, because that’s an entirely separate conversation. There are good arguments and reasons for and against building a business or service by giving some or even all features away for free. Maybe Facebook couldn’t have scored a billion users without giving everything away for free all this time. Then again, Facebook has recently started charging for things like promoted posts and gifts, of which both I am a fan. I’m also a huge fan of the stuff Tumblr charges for, like promoting posts (which it did before Facebook) and premium themes, which are head and shoulders above any other premium themes for other platforms in terms of quality and support, including WordPress. But I digress.
My real gripe is that, time and again, we’ve seen “Everything’s Free!” businesses make decisions like this, and every time, users and the press get all rabble rabble rabble as if it’s a surprise anymore. Sure, companies that offer paid products can make some wacky or just plain bad decisions. But I think you’ll be hard pressed to find, say, a company that sells $30 Mac apps or even $2 iPhone apps suddenly decide to start selling all your personal information to advertisers or use your likeness or content to sell products without paying you a dime.
If we’re going to use free services, we have to realize that nearly all bets are off.
“If Facebook buying Instagram pissed you off, I have a suggestion. Don’t just stop using Instagram, stop using free social networks and services period. Stop using sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare or Pinterest, because it is a given that they will all inevitably let you down in favor of the bottom line1. More often than not, when you actually quit a service, it’s not because they were evil. It’s just because they either became useless or boring. The reality is that you’re not going to stop using services that are useful to you. You’re just going to waste time switching from one company to the next until your latest service inevitably falls short or sells out.”
In case you need some help figuring out why Facebook would want to buy Instagram, this chart from 1000memories’ post, how many photos have ever been taken?, should help.
In a nut: photos are kind of a thing on Facebook, and Instagram is kind of a thing for photos.
WSJ pegs the number at $1 billion. Instagram has 13 employees. Now it has $1 billion.
Zuckerberg says Facebook plans to keep Instagram independent. I question how long that will last.
Update: To be clear, I am probably one of the few techies who doesn’t hate Facebook. I’ve had my beefs with the company in the past, and it has certainly screwed up a few times. But who and what company haven’t? Plus, it’s improved its approach to privacy and greatly simplified our control over our accounts in recent years.
I’m not saying Facebook deserves a free pass; no one does. But it’s a tremendously useful service, both personally and professionally, with an unparalleled user base. I like Facebook, and I’m happy to see Instagram land on some solid ground.
InstaPad Pro from Red Foundry looks like a gorgeous, powerful way to browse Instagram on the iPad. You can even search tags and view map locations for geotagged photos. Not bad for just $3.
27 million people is not too shabby, but it’s nowhere near the scale you need to make a massively large business.
Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom, in an interview with PandoDaily’s Sara Lacy, outlines his company’s plans to actually make money. The plan?
Build a platform where advertisers can come to perform their advertisements.
Carousel, the awesome Instagram client for the Mac, got a huge update to version 1.1 to gain search, the ability to pin your favorite tags, locations, and people to the search tab for easy access, a new Likes tab, multitouch gestures, captions that clearly display the photographer’s original message, and more.