Just when you thought the backlash over Instagram opening its doors to Android users had already set the Twitterverse alight, another bombshell dropped on an unsuspecting public early Monday afternoon. Instagram, the incredible popular (and until recently iOS exclusive) photo sharing service and social network in one, was purchased by Facebook in a stunning $1 billion dollar acquisition. The move by Facebook may surprise some, but there were signs of this some time ago.
Instagram’s rabid fan base of iOS users grew at an explosive rate in the past months, thanks in part to the system’s familiar user interface and most importantly, on the fly photo touchup. While some bemoaned users uploading digital pictures meant to look aged and tattered, the service struck a chord with an increasingly nostalgic younger generation (as evidenced in the resurgence of trends like retro/arcade gaming and vinyl records). The exclusivity gave way to an influx of Android users, with many signing up for e-mail alerts to mark the day it would arrive in the recently revamped Google Play marketplace. Instagram for Android has surpassed 1 million downloads in its first 24 hours, with the current number of downloads hovering somewhere between 1 and 5 million.
The best way to make a product attractive is to offer an air of mystery and exclusivity, which Instagram had certainly accomplished on the iOS platform. The beauty in bringing it to Android (and teasing it at tech-centric events like SXSW) was the already fervent demand. Instagram knew that Android users wanted the app. There were even dozens of clone apps available, but none caught on. As iOS fans bemoaned the loss of status and exclusivity, a willing throng of users joined the ranks and boosted the nascent but powerful social network into a growing threat, even though it is built to share across social networks. Facebook’s acquisition, with a promise to develop the company independently from Facebook, still shows that the world’s biggest social network is prepared to defend itself from any upstart startups, upping the ante with this $1 billion dollar purchase ahead of its impending IPO.
While purchases in the past have shown Facebook cautious or reluctant to really throw its weight around (previously buying companies under 100 million), they have pounced on Instagram for a cool $1B. Rest assured Facebook’s immense presence is being felt and it’s getting stronger with each passing day. The hackers who wanted to connect the world have begun to show their maturity and willingness to take on a fight, be it through patent legislation or incredible sums of cash, and other social networks have been put on notice once again.