Earlier this year, I wrote an article entitled “Why Instagram is Terrible for Photographers, and You Should Use It.”
Today, I’d like to fully retract that statement because, screw those guys for ruining something fun.
First, no one should be surprised that a business looked to monetize its huge number of users. This is how the Internet works: companies get a meteoric rise in user base with no revenue model (exhibit A: Twitter, Exhibit B: Tumblr), and then struggle to figure out how to make money.
But let’s also be honest, while Facebook doesn’t have Google-like revenue, they certainly aren’t poor. They don’t need Instagram to make money – it’s a gateway drug for social media, and a dominant player in mobile. I’m sure they are looking to get a return-on-investment for their $700m acquisition, but seriously guys.
Google also has many properties that don’t make a ton of money. It’s been hypothesized for years that YouTube is a loss leader for them, and even if that has changed, the more significant observation is that the way we produce and interact with content on YouTube has remained fundamentally unchanged. You don’t give up your rights to videos by posting them. Instead, Google has been smarter about figuring out how to monetize the traffic (namely, ads over videos).
But instead of doing something creative like location-based, paid ads in your Instagram stream, Facebook has decided to just appropriate all your images.
Granted, given the huge number of images uploaded to the service, it’s unlikely that your images will be sold to another company. But for professional photographers, the threat is real. And since the GPS coordinates are on the images, it’s so much easier to find location-specific imagery. Want that Disney image? Eiffel Tower? No problem.
At the end of the day, is my life going to be impacted by Instagram all that much? No, but it was a way for me to stay in contact with friends visually, and I had enjoyed it immensely – from the most creative and artistic of images, and from the top professionals to the last mushroom burger Farah (our Client Services Manager) ate.
So for all of the enormous benefits Instagram has as a distribution platform, and as fun platform, the only advice I have for you now as a photographer is to delete your account.
May Instagram wither like an old Polaroid.