I remember back in the day when No Doubt used to be a local Anaheim band. Small venues filled with hardcore fans and local celebrity status.
But then the inevitable happened, they got on the radio, got signed by a record label and went mainstream to tour the world. The good people of the city of Anaheim hated the fact that now they had to share their band with the rest of the world and the band will eventually become more “friendly” in order to sell more records.
What happened? I’ll oversimplifly because I know you don’t have all day to read about No Doubt. The band pretty much went from Ska to Pop in 60 seconds, Gwen became a superstar and the band ended up splitting. Not without making a ton of money first, of course.
Aaah yes… sorry I got carried away a bit there, we’re here to talk about Instagram. Or you could just copy and paste the story above, really.
Is this the beginning of the end for Instagram? Is Facebook going to end up killing the coolest app/network since Twitter? We tend to think as users and often forget these cool little apps at some point need to turn into profitable companies. Facebook, Google and Twitter are nothing but huge media companies.
That said, it seems like the latest announcements and updates are not in the right direction. Let’s review the latest events in Instagram land:
Purchased by Facebook
Not knowing what the future of the app is, made users uncomfortable, specially when the new landlord is Zuck. It certainly lost its “indie” roots.
But I’m not going to go into too much detail with this, we all know they sold for a cool billion without ever making a dime. It’s ancient history.
Blocking Twitter inline previews
Blocks Twitter from previewing photos in its app (I’ll skip the boring technical aspect of it), forcing users to get out and increase pageviews to Instagram’s new web properties. Not cool but not a huge deal either.
There is a fix for this using IFTTT, which is far from being ideal but, if you really want to get it done, here it is.
Funny thing is, almost at the same time, Twitter rolls out photo filters to its native app.
Sharing your data
This data might include information from cookies, log files, device identifiers, location data, and usage.
The service might soon be supported by advertising revenue, sponsored content or promotions. Although users dislike this model, most people are not willing to pay a premium.
Would you pay Facebook or Twitter to enjoy a version of the service free of ads? We’ll have to live with it.
Taking ownership of your content
And this is where it all goes to hell. The latest announcements have created a lot of confusion and it is the main concern to this point. Here is the paragraph right from the new TOS, in case you didn’t read it yet:
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.
On Tuesday, co-founder Kevin Systrom moved into damage control mode to say this:
The language we proposed also raised question about whether your photos can be part of an advertisement. We do not have plans for anything like this and because of that we’re going to remove the language that raised the question. Our main goal is to avoid things like advertising banners you see in other apps that would hurt the Instagram user experience. Instead, we want to create meaningful ways to help you discover new and interesting accounts and content while building a self-sustaining business at the same time.
This is far from over and we’ll have to wait for the big finale (grab some popcorn in your way home).
But let’s not be naive, we’ve seen this kind of stuff from Silicon Valley many times, these are not mistakes. How many time have you seen Zuck apologize about privacy policies.
Update: Instagram “officially” drops policy changes.
Meanwhile, Instaport, a service that offers to give you a backup download of all your Instagram content, has been overwhelmed with request the last few days. If you want to get all your images down to your hard drive, you can do so here.
Alternatives to Instagram
Will any of these recent events be enough for people to consider moving to another service? We don’t know yet if these changes are going to be implemented, apologies are rolling out and most importantly… people love trashing networks and apps as an initial reaction but then, nothing happens. Facebook is already used to this.
But for now, the star quarterback is injured and all of a sudden, the replacements have a chance to shine bright like a diamond.
Before going to the alternatives, let’s be clear about one thing, people love throwing names on the table when they’re not even the same thing. If you’re considering apps like Snapseed or Camera+ as Instagram alternatives, then you’re lost.
Flickr has (very timely) launched its new iOS app with a lot of new features such as filters, connecting with your Facebook friends and a beautiful interface.
Flickr is not a startup, it has a huge established network and it should be the natural contender on mobile photography. Check out the new app here.
EyeEm is a smaller network built in Berlin, seems to understand what building culture means. A lot of cool things happening with its community, which looks to be growing into a small army of hardcore fans.
Some of the expected features like filters and location and others like “Albums” and tagging. It’s probably not in your list but definitely worth checking out.
Starmatic is also presenting some cool features like cropping freedom (you are not forced to post a square-shape image), the ability to re-post other people’s photos, organizing your favorites and also a pretty nice interface.
Backspaces has taken a slightly different approach by combining images with the element of storytelling by giving you the option to publish a group of images and add text into one post.
It really feels like a mini-blog.
I know what you’re thinking, just because Twitter came up with “filters” doesn’t mean is now a mobile photography contender.
Twitter has a lot of advantages over any other app, including a network that’s stronger than ever with 200 million monthly active users and, sorry to say it but Twitter has something that Google+ and Facebook can’t say, it remains cool.
If you tried the filters you’ll agree with me that there is a lot of room for improvement but that is the easy part. Twitter is Twitter and it’s certainly capable of taking a good chunk of the photo traffic pie.
So there you have them, what I think are your best options if you are thinking of leaving Instagram. Me? I think I’ll continue to post my images on Instagram and will wait to see the end of this. I’ll switch the day Facebook swallows it completely.
Is all this mumbo jumbo going to hurt the service? I doubt it, you just have to look around you. There are 6 members in my family and 6 Instagram accounts.
The collective rant will pass and Instagram will continue to be king.
I know there are many more options out there and I’m sure you know some of them, I left some on purpose. So feel free to express yourself in the comments sections, share your thoughts about this or recommend your favorite apps.
And you have my permission to say “I like Snapseed!”