Hey Facebook. Let's talk about Instagram.
I love Facebook and its many ways it helps connect people on a personal level and gives brands a different way to encourage sharing and information distribution. I don't like how Facebook has killed some pretty great apps in the last few years. I'm writing this to share some history... and let Facebook know I really care about Instagram and don't want to lose it. But first, let me explain why I'm worried about the future of the Instagram community now that Facebook is paying $1 billion for the app. In 2009, Facebook purchased FriendFeed. It was a way to keep watch of conversations across various platforms. I used it a bit and enjoyed it. This purchase made a lot of sense to me because Facebook was working on better aggregation of Facebook users. Just think of the many ways the Facebook news feed has changed in the last few years. The FriendFeed concept has led Facebook to include many third party apps into its feed.
In 2010, I discovered a cool app called Hot Potato. The guys who created the app were bouncing around the Austin Conference Center during SXSW. I loved the app. The idea was to provide a more private twitter-type conversation where you could converse quickly based on a topic or an event without overflowing your twitter feed. It was smart. I liked it. Before I could really like it, Facebook bought it. I realize this was the foundation to Facebook's messenger system. I like messenger... but it still doesn't meet all of my messaging needs.
I thought the purchase of Hot Potato was really smart. It was small and smart. Facebook snagged the technology at the right time: Before it got too popular. I looked forward to what Facebook would do. I was really happy for the Hot Potato developers.
The big app acquisitions continued in 2011. But my positive view started to change. There were two acquisitions that I felt ate up a product that was great, but Facebook didn't use to its fullest.
It was clear in 2011 that group messaging was gaining in popularity so I thought I'd play with many of the group tools during SXSW. That was when I fell in love with Beluga. It was a great messaging service where you could have private conversations with a set of people. It would let you message the group and it would display your geolocation. I used it a lot during SXSW with my roommates and groups of people who I wanted to keep up with, but didn't feel the need to physically follow around during the event. GroupMe is probably the closest tool that I've enjoyed since Beluga died, but that geolocation element was really great for me. So Facebook bought it up in the second half of 2011. The app disappeared and I had expected to see more of the Beluga features inside Facebook Messenger. I want Beluga back. I began to think Facebook was buying products up just to squash the competition, not enhance its current products. I hate it when that happens. (I take it personally when Snapfish bought up Motionbox and never made that technology available.)
And then there was the purchase of Gowalla. I LOVED that application. The badges I earned were beautiful eye candy and I enjoyed collecting items for my "passport." (I even blogged about the ways newsrooms could use it.) It connected with Facebook really well. My check in's not only showed up on Facebook, they showed up on my Facebook map. (Have you ever checked your Facebook map timeline? It's kind of cool. It's really cool if you used Gowalla.) The down side of the purchase? Facebook took all of my check-in history from Gowalla, but never returned my badges, stamps and pins from my long-term use of the app. I had built up a lot of my life story in there. It was fun and full of cool images. As Facebook ate up Gowalla, all of my cool collections disappeared.
So now Facebook has purchased Instagram. It's an app I have used intensely for about a year but joined in 2010. It's been a really wonderful community of pictures where you can talk to members and share using hashtags. I had planned to sit down and right a list of ways to connect using Instagram today since last week, Instagram opened the community to Android users. I have dozens of new friends inside the app and I had hoped to share my community building tips.
But before I write that post, I want to beg Facebook to keep Instagram intact. It's one of the few communities where I've enjoyed sharing and loved the simplicity of it all. There's a fabulous monthly photo challenge that started by a mom blogger last January and has grown each month. (I blogged about that topic on this blog.)
I get it. I really do. Just as Read Write Web wrote, this purchase is all about the investors. Many, many people were posting photos to Facebook through Instagram. The two started working better together recently. You can produce Instagram and Foursquare photo albums instead of just linking out to the app on separate websites. But I think there's a bigger reason here. Google+ purchased Picnik so users could edit their photos inside the social network. Now, Facebook wants users to be able to "improve" their photos as well. This is a way to use technology to encourage more people to go to Facebook and post photos. This isn't about the app. But I'm here to beg to keep the app alive. I don't want to be forced to publish every Instagram photo to Facebook. I have 910 photos on Instagram. Many are also published to my Flickr account, some to Twitter and Facebook. But most are just inside my Instagram community and that's the way I like it and I hope to keep it.