Following yesterday’s release of Facebook Camera, many have been quick to question the application’s significance in light of Facebook’s recent Instagram acquisition. Considering Facebook Camera provides attractive filters, sociability, and various other Instagram-esque perks, the similarities are readily apparent to even the most uninterested of onlookers. In reality, however, I tend to think there isn’t quite as much controversy as many have projected upon the situation.
As I discussed with Myke and Terry on The Bro Show a number of weeks ago, Facebook has been famously working on a mobile photography-centric app for over a year. When the acquisition was announced, many were quick to assume that development of the app had been abandoned. Clearly, however, such assumptions were unfounded.
In fact, contrary to the general confusion apparent within the technology community, I would argue that the youthful existence of the app is, in many respects, a resounding endorsement of a resurgent and responsive Facebook. As I wrote several months ago, Facebook’s goal must be the creation of a social networking playpen in which users are herded into the Facebook ecosystem for entertainment. Due to its ever-slowing rate of expansion, the facilitation of an entertaining and absorbing environment is of paramount importance to the long-term relevance — and, indeed, economic stability — of Facebook. Without this, Facebook will continue to hemorrhage its user-base to competing, small social networks (i.e., Instagram).
Instagram is a platform agnostic service, whereas Facebook Camera is — as is betrayed by its name — solely dedicated to Facebook sharing. Without ruining the integrity of the Instagram community, Facebook has launched its own, rather impressive, photography app that seeks to leverage its enormous community dynamic. In providing an attractive, competent experience for the average mobile photographer, Facebook has constructed a win-win situation for itself, insofar as users are likely to post to one of two photography communities — both of which are owned by Facebook.
Although this is mere conjecture, once the Instagram acquisition is finalized, I would imagine that Facebook will steadily reduce the quantity of time and work leant to the Instagram platform. In this environment, with an actively developed and growing photography app of its own, Facebook will ostensibly provide the end-user with a decision between an increasingly stagnant app, and an utterly attractive, responsive, and active alternative. Concordantly, many users may find themselves in a subtle shift from the agnostic, Twitter-friendly environment of Instagram, to the dictatorial environment governed by Facebook.
Following years of rapid expansion, it’s important to note Facebook’s recent re-investment in introspective improvements. Whether it’s the long-awaited release of the iPad app, the announcement of the App Center, or the general improvements in user experience, Facebook has clearly identified the significance in its existing infrastructure. Mobile is, without a doubt, the future for mobile social networking and, although somewhat late to the party, Facebook has demonstrated clear recognition of such a fact. Without rushing itself, Facebook is steadily extending itself into impressive, long-term endeavors in the mobile space. Facebook Camera is, on many different levels, the epitome of the disruptive Facebook of the mid-two thousands, and I certainly hope its indicative of the coming months and years for the company.
For the time being, however, Facebook is deserving of praise for the Facebook Camera app. Although many readers will have a deep-seated mistrust of Facebook, the app is unquestionably steeped in the broad tenets of mainstream appeal, smart design, and ease of use. For the vast majority of mobile social photography users, the Facebook Camera app accomplishes all that it needs to, and it does so in an utterly compelling package.
Perhaps Instagram and Facebook Camera superficially clash, but I tend to think such a conflict is not without long-term significance and reason — certainly not cause for controversy, dismissal, negativity, and confusion.