Why, might you ask, did Facebook fork out that cool bil and then turn around and launch a similar application? First off, the Facebook Camera app had been on the drawing board well before the company bought Instagram, suggesting they were planning to compete against the young startup.
Secondly, as Christina Warren points out at Mashable, the answer can be found in the rationale behind another major acquisition — for example, when Google bought YouTube, despite Google Video being readily available.
"After the release of Facebook Camera, I’m even more convinced that Instagram could be Facebook’s YouTube — in other words, an acquisition that becomes monumentally important to its future, and helps it solve a problem it couldn’t solve on its own," Warren wrote.
Similar to Instagram's filters — arguably its most popular feature — Facebook Camera will include 15 filters, plus tools for cropping and straightening photos. However, as Warren points out, "the user controls for taking photos and applying filters could use some serious love." I can see why. Most of the Facebook Camera filters are difficult to tell apart.
While the new app lets users upload higher resolution photos than the standard Facebook app, it's hard to see it breaking Instagram's stride. Dirk Stoop, a Facebook product manager for photos, told The New York Times that Facebook Camera will create a more "immersive experience around your photos." Great that you're finally realizing that photos are the candy of social media of which many people have a sweet tooth for, but Stoop, you and your company are a little slow on the draw — Instagram already beat you to the punch.
But Instagam has only 40 million users while Facebook has 900 million — many of whom I'm willing to bet are unaware of Facebook's acquisition of Instagram. What this new app does do is ensure brand loyalty by giving Facebook users a lesser need to seek a better photo sharing app, despite there being one.
Essentially, Facebook Camera is a tool for Facebook. Sure, so is Instagram, but it doesn't have the "Facebook" name, a name that's now become all but synonymous with social media. And I'm sure Zuckerberg and his minions want to keep it that way, even if it means releasing an inferior app.
On the flip side of the question, why would Facebook buy Instagram if they were working on a photo app that "launches really fast" and "scrolls like butter"? As Warren mentioned, it all has to do with virility.
"People love, use and evangelize Instagram. It has the brand," she wrote. "It’s the same reason Google bought YouTube even though it had Google Video. Instagram became synonymous with 'photo app' and that’s not something you can just recreate.
"Moreover, Instagram was a truly mobile-first offering — which only allows users to upload photos from a mobile interface — and that zeroes in at the heart of Facebook’s issues with mobile," Warren said.
"You could fairly ask, 'why didn't Facebook fix its mobile apps first?'" my DNews colleague Rob Pegoraro mused. "I don't know why — but, remember, this company took its sweet time to ship an iPad app, and its Android app only got to a position of feature parity with the iOS release relatively recently. I guess those are more complex creations than they seem," he said.