If you’re reading this blog post, you know by now that Facebook has acquired mobile photo sharing application Instagram for $1 billion (more than twice what it was recently valued at by professional investors who were risking their own money). Many people have offered great insight as to why Facebook made this move, and paid this price. I will leave the analysis to them, but you can start with Om Malik’s article at Gigaom.
What matters to me is not that Instagram has been acquired, but that Instagram has been acquired by Facebook. So, I have decided to delete my account and all associated photos. Here’s why: I am actively opting out of the version of the Internet that Facebook is building, now including Instagram.
Facebook, Google and Digital Data
I don’t have a Facebook account (even a fake one). I’ve never had one, and I don’t use any Facebook-dependent apps or services. That was, in fact, one of the great initial draws of Instagram – I didn’t need a Facebook account to sign up, and I didn’t have to pump/pimp all my data through Facebook’s pipes. I am so concerned that Facebook is removing the amount of control I have over my own digital interactions that I would rather not have any interactions there than have them on Facebook’s terms. The bottom line with all free services is that if you’re not paying for the service, then you’re the product.
Friends have asked, “But what about Google? You use their services and they have all your data, too.” To which my answer is, “Yes, and no. And it depends.” I am plenty capable of having meaningful digital interactions outside the scope of Google, as well. I’m a huge fan of exactly four Google offerings, and lukewarm on one. I love Gmail, Maps, Chrome, and YouTube. I’m lukewarm on Picasa. The rest? I don’t use them regularly enough to worry about – even search. So, while Google does know who I email and what about, what directions I look up, perhaps some browsing habits, and videos I watch, this pales in comparison to the data that Facebook continues to compile about their users. Even then, the value proposition from Google is shrinking on a daily basis as other tools continue to crop up and evolve.
Sharing Data on My Own Terms
I am more than happy to pay for services that truly add value to my life. I pay for Evernote’s Premium service, I pay for Instapaper, and I’m about to start paying for Dropbox if I can’t get some more free space. The other free services I use (Twitter, mainly, along with newly acquired Posterous, Foursqure, and likely-soon-to-be acquired Flipboard) I would gladly pay for, but also feel okay trading my data in exchange for use.
The bottom line is this: I am interested in connecting with people, topics, and conversations on my own terms. This means that the knowledge and connections should be tied to me – not tied to any platform, to any particular tool or site, or to anything that I cannot control or impact. My data is mine and mine alone, and should only be used in ways that I dictate or consent to.
Instagram wasn’t acquired for their team, they were acquired for their users, and the conversations, connections, photos, and data they are
generating. The sale price indicates the true value that people – real people – have in the equation, and if we don’t stake our claim to our own value, somebody else clearly will.
If you’d like follow me out the Instagram door, there’s a great how-to article up at ReadWriteWeb.
What do you think of Facebook acquiring Instagram? Will you be leaving the service? Share your views in the comments below.