Facebook’s Motive Behind Buying Instagram: Zuckerberg Was Scared
Late last night web and technology writer Om Malik wrote a short post on his blog entitled “Yup, he was scared s***less!”, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in which he justified his initial opinion that the Instragram acquisition was prompted by fear. In the post, Om referred to a recent article by Evelyn Rusli in which new details on the deal emerged: Zuckerberg seemed aggressive about the acquisition and in a rush to close the deal. After all he ended up paying double what the service was valued at 24 hours before he made his bid. “Scared s***less – there is no other way to describe it!” he concluded.
On the surface, Facebook and mobile snapping software seem to go perfectly together. Add to that a flawlessly designed interface and millions of users and the deal seems to be a logical, shrewd move by Facebook.
Better photos = more traffic
Instagram provides instant photo fixing. Primarily, the app was designed to make pictures look better than they are in reality, allowing people to create something worth sharing, hence encouraging users to upload and share more pictures, and consequently, for Facebook, this translates into creating more traffic.
In fact, the press release from Facebook reads: “For years, we've focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we'll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.”
Additionally, adding an old timey filter to a picture plays on emotional strings (nostalgia), which serves Facebook's timeline well.
Facebook’s Achilles heel: mobile photo sharing
Back in 2010, Om had written a piece in which he gave his opinion on a soon to be launched photo app called… Instagram. In the article he noted: “I feel many of today’s photo sharing services are desktop services re-cast for the mobile. Touch-based smartphones need a unique and more immersive, two-way service. Is Instagram the answer? We shall find out later this month.”
And it was. By early April of this year Instagram was signing up 2,000 people a minute, had around 30+ million registered users with 430,000 people on the Android-app waiting list prior to its release on the most widely used mobile platform.
Zuckerberg feared a mobile-only, photo-oriented social platform.
Sharing photos based on interests sounds a lot like Pinterest
Finally, other pundits have claimed that the acquisition was a reaction to another fear factor: the dramatic popularity that Pinterest has been gaining lately. Take for example Michael Downing’s reaction, founder and CEO of social video service Tout, taken from Dave Copeland’s article on ReadWriteWeb:
"In a general sense, this acquisition on the heels of the dramatic growth of Pinterest in the last few months is a massive reflection of just how fast the Social-Stream is becoming visual in nature, meaning evolving social engagement driven purely around visual media, not text - and just how valuable that will inevitably be to every major participant in the social media landscape."