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The Instagram-Facebook backlash

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As you all know, I am just a massive Instagram junkie. I spend an inordinate amount of time on the service. And so do a lot of other people. Many of them are very passionate people who signed up for the service because it was anti-Facebook.

It seems like these passionate people are quite upset over finding themselves under the yoke of Mark Zuckerberg. And while no one is begrudging the good fortune of co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger, there seems to be a backlash building against the deal on the service.

One of my favorite Instagramers, Elise Marie, shared a black screen in protest of the deal. There is a #instablack hash-tag that has been created to protest the deal. Clicking on #facebook on the service exposes one to even more photos expressing disappointment.

When I posted a snapshot of my own previous story, many left comments that expressed a sense of loss and hurt. “Happy for the instagram crew. Bummed though, instagram was my fb alternative. Who trusts Facebook?” wrote @emersonnh.

A long time ago, Robert Young wrote a great post about MySpace about its trouble with its community and how they felt betrayed by the service. I think we just might be starting to see similar emotions being expressed here too.

There’s a certain level of what (for the lack of a better phrase) I will refer to as cognitive dissonance when you run a business based on community. And that’s that you quickly realize that the members of the community feel strongly that the service belongs to them, and the control that you, the corporation, think you have is actually, in large part, an illusion.

After all, a community, by definition generates its own content, its own style and culture… it’s all by the people, for the people. As a result, if you’re an executive at such a company, you oftentimes feel more like a politician than a businessperson. To do anything that would suggest that you, as the corporation, owns and controls the service (and in effect, the community) is, well, akin to heresy.

As the worlds of media and technology collide with a force that can split an atom, such cognitive dissonance is a natural by-product of the fact that more and more content (and code) is being produced by the people themselves. At the same time, with the increasing digitization of media, the definition of “distribution” is also changing from channels previously rooted in the physical world to one where people themselves become the new distribution channels via tightly and loosely-coupled social networks connected together by the universal language of IP and bits.

So as time goes by, the foundation of ownership and control for content and distribution is increasingly shifting from corporate entities to people and communities. A phenomenon that will cause countless sleepless nights for old media and old-line technology leaders who don’t fully comprehend the significance of the dynamics at hand.

What Robert said in 2005 is even more valid today, except that instead of large media owners, the disruptors and social media platforms are finding themselves at a weird sport – the tail is wagging the dog.

24 Responses to “The Instagram-Facebook backlash”

  1. solidjediknight

    As a Android users who mostly missed out on the whole niche Instagram thing, I’m not really surprised. Why are people in 2012 putting so much faith in a faceless company to do the right thing? Or what people believe to be the right thing? What is the purpose of any company or service? To make a product FOR PROFIT! They have a fiduciary responsibility to their investors, debtors, & employees to make a profit. They have no such responsibility to customers to stay niche, independent, or cool. Their goal should be to amass as large a user base, & continue to make profit.

  2. BeckerTaylor

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  3. Jeff Putz

    I wrote about this, too ( because it just endlessly amuses me. “New Coke” didn’t enjoy this kind of hyperbole and backlash. As I said in my post, this has happened, and will happen, time and time again on the Internet. Everything has a cost, and eventually someone has to pay for it, one way or another. In this case, the investors are getting a gigantic and awesome check. I think it’s entirely awesome.

  4. Another one bites the dust.

    Great quote btw : “So as time goes by, the foundation of ownership and control for content and distribution is increasingly shifting from corporate entities to people and communities. A phenomenon that will cause countless sleepless nights for old media and old-line technology leaders who don’t fully comprehend the significance of the dynamics at hand. “

  5. netgarden

    FWIW, when I told my 16 year old niece that Facebook had acquired Instagram, she made a scrunchy face, and said with a bit of worry, “Really, what does that mean for Instagram? Are they going to change it?”

    Personally, I think that Facebook will treat it arms-length like Google did with YouTube, but it underscores the first impression aspect of this deal.

  6. Something that has given me lots of pleasure for free just got purchased by something other free-but-valuable service, and I’m worried that I won’t keep getting free stuff just the way I want it, so I’ll express my anger through hashtags on yet another free service. Oh, and keep your government hands off my health care.

  7. I have just the opposite view from Mr Tapp of this piece. In fact, it reminds me why I subscribe to the blog. It wasn’t the Instagram/Facebook issue that grabbed me but the insight that the resulting community reaction is one more instance of a much more consequential trend – power shifting from corporation to consumer. That example makes sense, is something I likely wouldn’t have thought of myself, and not something I’ve seen elsewhere. So thanks Om, a well spent five minutes.

  8. Steve Tapp

    What the Hell is InstaGram? Now, if you think I am a Luddite, think again and look it up. But this is probably the least impressive piece I have ever read on here, and coming from the fearless leader of this time hog, it makes me question my time expenditure here.

  9. jusben

    The Instagram deal will soon be forgotten and we’ll move on. However this might be a watershed moment for FB. The Valley is treating it more like MSFT than a pre IPO member. I think this changes hiring and retainment going forward.

  10. jusben

    In the big picture of things Instagram will be a hiccup. However this appears to be a watershed moment for FB. Rarely does the Valley turn on their own in such a manner – especially still pre IPO?!. Does everyone working at FB go to bed last night feeling Miley cool and wake up feeling like they’re now at MSFT? What does this mean for hiring and retaining talent etc?

  11. Scott Fink

    have you heard of PhotoRankr (.com)? Hasn’t hit mainstream yet, but I think its better than instagram, especially with the facebook merger. Its got the social networking side, where you can build your own photostream by favoriting photos and following photographers you like. but its still tight-knit unlike whats going to happen with instagram.

  12. ronald

    Emotions flying high, the question is how can FB capture them?
    I would invite Kevin to join the FB exec team to learn from the “positive” emotional response or why, or maybe FB is so used to negative responses that they don’t care and pull a Google[we know everything already].

  13. This is interesting. Are all these people who oppose this deal only anti-FB-buys-Instagram or are they also anti-FB in general? If it’s the latter, then this deal is unconvering a greater degree of discontent with FB than was apparent in all the social media noise until now. If anything, all the noise in the social media until now seemed to indicate a marked pro-FB tilt. This might be the point when things start tilting in the opposite direction.

  14. Peter Mullen

    Not to begrudge the good fortune and success of Kevin and his team, I would have much preferred to see In$tagram play itself out and go head-head with Facebook.