Is Facebook about to have the last word in iPhone photo sharing?


Facebook is about to lunch a doozy of a photo sharing app for iOS, according to TechCrunch . The app will enter a space that’s already crowded with startup offerings such as Color, Instagram, PicPlz and more, but Facebook obviously already brings a lot of clout when it comes to photo sharing. So how will the picture change if a Facebook app does develop?

Let’s just get this out of the way: If Facebook releases this app, it will get downloaded, and used, a lot. Photo sharing is one of Facebook’s most-used features, with around 6 billion photos uploaded each month, or approximately one for each person on earth. Even third-party apps that aren’t particularly well-designed that plug into Facebook’s photo feature do well, like iLoader for Facebook, currently at number 15 in the top paid Photography apps in the App Store.

Facebook also seems to be paying attention to what users are liking about other photo sharing apps like Instagram, Color, Path and WITH, since it appears to incorporate friend tagging, likes, comments and other social features that may go above and beyond what these apps already provide. Providing those features on the existing network means Facebook won’t have to convince users to sign up for something new, or depend on the kindness of strangers as WITH must do with Twitter, since it uses Twitter’s network as the sole source of its membership.

There’s no debating that consumers would use a standalone Facebook photo sharing app (which could become part of the site’s primary iOS app down the road, according to TechCrunch). But would it spell the end for competitors? Yes and no. I’d argue that it will hurry the demise of apps that missed the mark to begin with, such as Color, which reportedly saw only five photos posted during a particularly busy time at last week’s WWDC, an event that hosts thousands of iPhone developers. Color also just saw the departure of President and Co-Founder Peter Pham, according to reports Wednesday morning, which is never a good sign for a startup this early in.

But stickier apps like Instagram should be able to stay afloat, even with Facebook throwing up a huge wake. The iPhone-only app recently hit the 5 million user milestone, with roughly 26 million photos taken each month. It’s a far cry from Facebook’s volume, but consider that Instagram is just eight months old, with only a single mobile client on a single platform. In the same way that people don’t use Facebook to the exclusion of Twitter, or vice versa, I expect Instagram users wouldn’t jump ship if and when this Facebook photo sharing app launches. Like Twitter, Instragram offers a different set of experiences and expectations, maybe precisely because you’re extending beyond your normal social graph.

Will a Facebook offering shake up the space? No doubt, and it will be very hard for apps having trouble attracting an audience as it is, and for new apps coming up to come up with interesting ways to differentiate themselves. But I don’t think it’ll eclipse all possible competition. What do you think? Would you still use Instagram or other clients if Facebook offered something functionally similar?

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