Facebook Buys Instagram: What Does it Mean?

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I was just about to upload a photo to Instagram today (I am not making that up) when Twitter exploded with the news that Facebook had purchased Instagram for one billion dollars

instagram photo
Lilypads by mikultcarter via Instagr.am

I forgot about Instagramming my picture and jumped into a Twitter stream whose general reaction can be summed up with the following:

1. ONE BILLION DOLLARS?!?

2. Facebook is going to RUIN Instagram!

3. [Insert dumb joke about Facebook and Instagram here. My contribution? "Hey girl, I love your Nashville filter, but you're perfect in Normal." -- Instagrammist Mark Zuckerberg."]  

4. Mark Zuckerberg is going to steal my pictures of my breakfast! I hate Facebook! (Changing my status, BRB.)

5. ONE BILLION DOLLARS!!!

This is all to say that the zeitgeist's kneejerk concerns appeared to revolve around fear that Facebook will destroy any privacy people think they have on Instagram, dissatisfaction with Facebook's user interface and how that will affect Instagram's look and feel, plus lots of exclamation points. And, as happens every time a wildly popular mobile app that is available for free or next to it is acquired for a lot of money, people wonder aloud "Why, oh why so much money?" and then wish they'd invented it.

This is a solid thing to wish. Mashable reported tonight that Instagram founder and CEO Kevin Systrom stands to net $400 million from the sale, and co-founder Mike Krieger will make around $100 million. The company's estimated nine-to-13 employees (depending who is doing the counting) will split a remaining $100 million after investor payouts, based on how long they've been with the company. And Facebook honcho Mark Zuckerberg, who is sitting on a company expected to go public this week for around $100 billion, will continue to do what he does, whether it's liking status updates or counting his pocket change, I don't know.

Whew. Okay.

Now, as far as what this means for us, your everyday Instagram uploaders? Hard to say. Facebook has long been the photo upload leader (750 million photos uploaded over New Year's weekend 2010 alone, for instance, and an average of 250 million more added daily) and while some people do upload pictures with more concern for quality, the sharing and lifestreaming focus of the pictures there is not different from many you'll see on Instagram.

So what does Instagram add? More attention to photo look and feel, naturally, as it will come with its photo editing/filter feature that people either love or love to openly mock. (I don't get the backlash here, considering "fine art" photographers have been transforming photos in Photoshop for more than a decade now, so why deprive people who can't afford an expensive program of the pleasure?) Facebook is rumored to have been fiddling with its own filtering features lately, something it can probably safely discard now apart from the existing app -- and thank the heavens, really. Who knows what filtering they'd have concocted?

Finally, in case anyone was worried about their Instagrams going directly into Timeline, Zuckerberg's statement made it clear on his own Timeline today that, at least for now, he isn't interested in mashing up Facebook and Instagram entirely:

That's why we're committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.

We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.

But what do I think Mark Zuckerberg wants, and why do I think he'd be especially jazzed to get Instagram on his digital continent? It's you, that's who. He likes to have a lot of you on his platform, and Instagram provides him with a lot of photo-shooting and filtering fingers. Thirty million existing Instagram users uploading more than five million photos each day? One million uploads from the new Android users in the first day they had access to the app, just last week? This is what he says about it:

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