Instagram could have beat Facebook.
Reflected in the ubiquity of Apple devices, people value design above anything else. Due to the product’s exaltation of design, Instagram is less geared for overshare than Facebook, relieving the eye rolling which occurs when popping open Facebook’s news feed. Users are so uninterested and annoyed by what their “friends” are saying and posting that Facebook has to allow users to “remove” particular friend’s posts from the news feed.
Take one photo. One. Make it look good, really good. Place it into all your followers’ feeds, if you’re too boring they can unfollow you like practically everywhere else social now on the web. Instead of an accompanying bolded status, the caption on the photo appears just like a comment would. Unobtrusive. Picture is the focal point. Hearts are an easy thing to give away. The elimination of retweets or creating a hierarchy from the number of hearts on a post creates a sense of surprise in the feed with the broadness of importance - as you scroll the pictures range from cappuccino, puppy, engagement ring!, shot of sky, newborn baby!, cute girl close up!, french fries, frothy beer, grass. It keeps the user engaged enough to scroll their the whole feed, whereas I rarely - if ever - bother even scrolling downward in my Facebook news feed.
How could they have expanded? First, clean up the Popular tab. Every time I click into it - it’s weird sexy girl shots and lame looking beaches with hearts drawn in the sand. Make an educated guess on what would interest me based on my friends and hearts - or just replace it with the “following” tab inside of the Activity section. Then, eliminate the “news” tab in Activity. Place new follower notifications inside one of the subsections in my profile tab.
Then add status updates, but not like on Twitter. This could be done in a parallel way to how Instagram energizes the user as a photographer, but for words - look at Findings, the betaworks product. Findings creates a feed of what people you follow are reading, but gives users a beautifully simple bookmarklet with the onus that they carefully select a quote from the piece to frame the article. Make it about surfacing great quotes - allowing the user to be creative and expressive in what/how they chose to share the article - it hits on Instagram’s ability (some might say magic) to make creatives out of amateurs. The surprise of varied importances is also there - hard, hitting, big *news* news + soft, fluff pieces.
From there, anything could be possible. I’m going to suppose that they could have redesigned with a shelf-like side-bar similar to Path instead of the tabs across the bottom (and probably still might do this), copying from the Path design would open up the UI greatly to added products. They have to make sure the added features carry with them the magic transformative mix that makes Instagram powerful.
But could they beat Facebook? Yes. Facebook is to Microsoft what Instagram is to Apple. Instagram might not have the full viral power of tagging photos and placing it into other’s streams like Facebook but my theory is that as time goes on, the overwhelming majority of people are going to value privacy over pervasiveness [this should be a duh point but some may have contention] and the less explicit nature of sharing via Instagram would be more and more cherished.
Facebook is now a clunky way to express oneself on the web, carrying too many relics from older ages of social on the Internet - mutual friending (though they’ve scrambled to push away from that with the ability to remove a user’s posts in the feed and subscriptions), boring photos (this will change thanks to Instagram), a way of making personal suddenly seem impersonal (do you really care about the birthday of the last person you wished happy birthday to on FB?). Those still using Facebook as their full social presence on the web are akin to those still carrying around Dells and Blackberrys. Don’t you know you could be having so much more fun?
With smart iterations and small changes, Instagram could’ve taken away from Facebook their grip on social. Just like software giants, no social site is too ubiquitous to be overturned.
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- lambjustin said: Social networking has jammed a stark candidness into our lives that Instagram can cushion. A photo at a party looks less glaringly unflattering when filtered through it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see FB turn towards photocentric statuses.
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- kennethto said: I agree with a lot of your points on Instagram’s edge on facebook, one of the best posts I’ve read in recent weeks
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- philk said: So you would have left the money on the table?
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- psql said: returning that investment was a pretty easy choice to make though. cash out and make something new? hells yeah.
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