Cooliris iPad

Formerly known as PicLens, I used to rely on Cooliris years ago to browse images and slideshows on the Internet in a more visual interface. Resembling a virtual wall with great focus on large, neatly arranged thumbnails for web content, Cooliris has always been one of the most interesting experiments in terms of browser integration and overall presentation. For the past few days I have been using Cooliris’ latest iteration, a universal app for iOS, and I am quite impressed with the results.

Cooliris also developed Discover, a Wikipedia app for iPad that turned articles into magazine-like layouts. The standalone (and free) Cooliris application is a new take on the old browser plugin, but it shares the same attention to detail and care for interface design of Discover.

Cooliris has always been about browsing photos, and this new iOS version is no exception, only it’s a more modern app that takes into account the changes that have happened to social photo sharing on the Internet in the past years. (more…)

Facebook Releases Standalone Camera App

Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram raised eyebrows and foreshadowed the launch of a Facebook branded camera app, separate from the official Facebook application just as Facebook Messenger and Facebook Pages Manager are. Combined with the dream team of developers from Sofa, Facebook’s previous talent pull seems to have paid off with Facebook Camera, a central app dedicated to taking pictures, lightly editing photos, and uploading pictures to your Facebook profile. With cropping and straightening tools, the ability apply stylish filters, batch upload multiple photographs at a time, and view your friend’s photos in fluid streams a la the camera roll, we’re left astonishingly impressed with Facebook’s latest mobile application.

Facebook’s app makes it easy to take photographs, batch upload your images (up to 2048 x 2048 pixels), tag them, and apply up to fifteen different filters not dissimilar from Instagram. A vertical feed of large photos, expansive album views, and an engaging progression of composing photos to uploading your favorite shots makes Facebook Camera feel like a solid camera application. Many unexpected elements can be pulled and pushed onscreen to reveal or hide information, and the app is simple enough to be intuitive without feeling crowded like you would expect a management app to be. Facebook has a well balanced, thoughtful, and overall enjoyable app on their hands. Facebook users should love it.

From Ellis Hamburger at The Verge:

Facebook Camera just became instantly the best way to upload photos to the social network, just ahead of Batch and other competitors. It’s simple to take photos, tag them, and upload them en masse, which is something we’ve been asking for for a long time.

Animations throughout Facebook Camera are fluid, the app is fast, and there’s a lot of clever interaction to take advantage of throughout the interface — clearly Facebook’s acquired talents have been hard at work in making the app to not just feel like a boring extension of Facebook, but rather a necessary addition that belongs, no, deserves to be on a Facebook user’s smartphone. Facebook has made an incredibly bold statement with Facebook Camera — they’ve stepped up to the plate to deliver a solid application that doesn’t feel tacked on or only done for the sake of their platform. It’s a serious release. Just look at their landing page.

All Things D and The New York Times both have introductory pieces on Facebook’s latest app release alongside Facebook’s official announcement on their blog. We recommend trying the app for yourself by downloading Facebook Camera from the App Store. A lot of care went into this app, and we’ll have more coverage after we spend some time using what’s already given us a great impression.

“Facebook Gets More Data”

Matthew Panzarino has a great take on today’s Instagram + Facebook news:

Facebook doesn’t need Instagram to make money. Instagram will probably never get ads.

I think it’s a win for everyone. Now Instagram doesn’t have to shoehorn a monetization model it would hate —and you would hate — into its service in order to survive. The users get a better experience. Facebook gets more data. Users that are quitting Instagram because the service may be ‘ruined’ are barking up the wrong tree. Facebook sees the value in the network as it is, a photo creation machine with a lot of user love.

While mobile ads could be a huge deal long-term speaking, it is true Facebook doesn’t “need” Instagram to make money right now. For a company as large as Facebook, this kind of acquisitions can be put on hold from a business perspective, to see how things evolve once users figure out they are effectively using a Facebook product. But you can’t put off the mobile explosion — it’s only going to get bigger — and can Facebook afford to miss out on “mobile advertisements done right”? What if someone else figures out a way to monetize millions — soon billions? — of users sharing photos from their smartphones?

It’s a good problem to have. And I agree that access to more data (patterns such as likes matched with photo captions, for instance, or location) is what matters for now. Let’s check back on ads and mobile monetization in six months.

More Instagram + Facebook coverage here.

Facebook, Instagram, and Ads

Oli Watts thinks Facebook’s recent statement on revenue from mobile users offers a clear indication of things to come soon in newly Facebook-owned Instagram: ads.

I think the real reason for the Instagram purchase, and the incredible price tag, is access to a potentially lucrative mobile advertising product.

Mobile advertisements are potentially more lucrative than standard “desktop” web advertisements, yet most companies have been doing them wrong for years. The majority of mobile advertisements have tried to replicate the web’s model with simple images users can click to be directed to a website. Others, including Apple with iAd, have tried to do things a little differently, yet the numbers are smaller, and incredibly so, than, say, Google’s revenue with ads on search and desktop websites. Mobile advertisements could keep users more “engaged” with promoted products by leveraging aspects like location, cameras, touch, apps – yet only a handful of companies seem to be betting on the future of ads as richer experiences built for mobile, not extrapolated from computers.

Facebook is a company that along the way found a business model and a culture that allows them to believe they are doing good things. That’s in their IPO filing. With the Instagram acquisition, one can only assume Facebook will want to start making some money with it eventually, and because Instagram is mobile, and photos are huge on mobile, Facebook will find a way to monetize both Instagram and Facebook’s mobile products.

Like Instagram’s photo sharing model applied to a company like Facebook, the potential for different mobile ads is largely untapped.

Why Facebook Bought Instagram

Om Malik, writing at GigaOM:

Facebook and Instagram are two distinct companies with two distinct personalities. Instagram has what Facebook craves – passionate community. People like Facebook. People use Facebook. People love Instagram. It is my single most-used app. I spend an hour a day on Instagram. I have made friends based on photos they share. I know how they feel, and how they see the world. Facebook lacks soul. Instagram is all soul and emotion.

I am indeed interested to see how, on an emotional level, Instagram users will react to the Facebook acquisition. Will the “love” Om and others mention survive the migration to Facebook’s infrastructure? Or maybe Facebook will really keep Instagram as a truly separate product, perhaps only slightly more integrated with the social network — even if that doesn’t make much sense for a $1 billion acquisition? We’ll see.

In the meantime, it does appear the “social paradigm” Instagram reinvented (here’s my take from 2010) intrigued Facebook enough to give away 1% of its market cap.

Also worth keeping in mind: the photo sharing app Facebook was building, and the popular content on Instagram.

“Sometime Down The Road”

Yours truly, writing about the improvements to Instagram’s API in March:

Instagram, on the other hand, is taking an interesting path (no pun intended) that, sometime down the road, might turn what was once an iPhone app into a de-facto option for all future social sharing implementations. A few months from now, would it be crazy to think Camera+ could integrate with Instagram to offer antive uploads? Or to imagine built-in support for Instagram photo uploads in, say, iOS, Twitter clients, and other photo apps? I don’t think so. Just as “taken with Hipstamatic” stands out in today’s Instagram feeds, “Upload to Instagram” doesn’t sound too absurd at this point.

It took 19 days, and “upload to Facebook” has a different ring to it.

Facebook’s Brilliant Move

Smart take by Dan Frommer on Facebook acquiring Instagram:

The biggest threat to Facebook is a mobile-only or mobile-first social network that captures the increasing amount of time spent on smartphones in a way Facebook can’t or doesn’t.

In my experience, that’s exactly what Instagram does. I’m still addicted to Facebook on the old desktop-browser web, but when I’m on my phone, I gravitate to Twitter and Instagram. Path is another example, but Instagram is more developed — that’s the deal I’d make, too.

That’s exactly what Facebook should be doing: take the photos experience, and invest on a more intuitive way to share quickly and nicely from a mobile device. Instagram was the best choice.

Apr
9
2012

Earlier today, Facebook announced it has “agreed” to acquire Instagram, the popular photo sharing service that recently launched an Android app, adding 1 million users in 12 hours to its existing 30 million iPhone users. Here’s Instagram’s announcement, Zuckerberg’s post on Facebook, and some nice numbers for context. Both companies say Instagram “isn’t going away”, though they will be working on expanding the network while keeping the Instagram “we know and love”. If it sounds confusing on a practical level, here’s how we can put this announcement in perspective.

Unlike Flickr, Facebook didn’t miss out on mobile (its iPhone app is the most popular free app on the App Store, ever), but unlike Flickr, Facebook is also many experiences in one. Facebook is the social network, not just the photo network or the bookmark network. Facebook is none of them and all of them at the same time. And as such, Facebook understands that the mobile photo sharing aspect of the social network could be done better.

How better? Instagram better. Even without a business model – something the company has been criticized for not figuring out on day one – Instagram amassed more than 30 million users in roughly 2 years, and it has somehow redefined the way we think of photos shot quickly, modified, and shared on the go on multiple social networks. Photos that don’t require a sign up to be seen, but that do require registered users to “like” and comment. Photos that, even if not of the highest quality, still appeal to the mobile user who wants to touch up his picture of food or a concert with some nice, vintage-like filters. Instagram is fast, intuitive, and free to use for anyone.

Some are already comparing Instagram’s acquisition to Google buying YouTube years ago. I can see the similarities, but there are some differences to keep in mind. Whilst Google’s publicized core product, search, hasn’t directly benefitted from YouTube, Google’s real business, advertising, certainly has in some way. With the Instagram acquisition, I do believe Facebook knows the app is fascinating because it is an app, separate and fun to use, rather than a complicated interface for the big, large network with thousands of features. And I think Facebook could figure out a way to keep the essence of Instagram alive, at least from an interaction perspective, while altering the network in ways to bring tighter integration with Facebook profiles.

The obvious hypothesis is that Instagram could remain a separate product – maybe just rebranded “Instagram by Facebook” – to become the Facebook app for photos. Facebook already has a dedicated Messenger app for messages; they understand that Facebook is so complex and rich now, people want some experiences of it to become standalone, more intuitive products. Photos are perhaps the biggest experience of Facebook – well, aside from the concept of “friending” itself – and Facebook must have figured out mobile users want to be able to shoot, edit, and share in seconds. They also must have noticed how users liked Instagram’s self-contained approach to a feed of photos that tell stories without necessarily using text captions. So perhaps Facebook could leverage its most visual experience yet – the Timeline – to integrate Instagram in a way to ensure photos are automatically saved in a dedicated album, nicely laid out on Facebook.com, but also available as a separate, still Facebook-made feed that only displays photos.

The “Facebook app for photos”, indeed: allow users to easily migrate Instagram accounts to Facebook, turn old Instagram comments and likes into Facebook’s versions of the same things, allow users to enjoy Instagram as a way to a) post photos, b) share them publicly, and c) have a feed of photos from friends or people you follow. It helps that Facebook has already enabled Subscriptions, which could be translated to Instagram followers. The transition should be simple, technically speaking; Facebook could benefit from a product that already has some users that are sharing to Facebook anyway, and that seemingly like the whole idea of filters.

Facebook was already playing around with that idea, too.

But will the transition be simple from a conceptual perspective? As with most popular acquisitions these days, nerds – who tend to be early adopters of social products – react with outrage and disbelief to news like today’s one.

There are five stages of web grief:

  • Disbelief
  • Outrage
  • Data exporting
  • Account deletion
  • “Five best alternatives to [x]”

In two hours, we have already seen all these headlines. You can love or profoundly hate Facebook, and I’m no judge of your criticism for Zuckerberg’s company. I am just trying to make some sense out of this.

There are some people who fell in love with Instagram, and now don’t accept the fact the company “sold out” to Facebook. It’s an understandable sentiment, as Facebook clearly will try to do something to connect its network with Instagram, otherwise they wouldn’t spend $1 billion. These are the people that liked Instagram because it was a social, but intimate, fun experience to share photos. A separate network with very few features, a focus on photos, and a general feel of “independence” that contributed to its rise to 30 millions. We all root for the small guys to succeed in this era of recession and corporate acquisitions. These people don’t simply fear Instagram will lose its “cool” – they are genuinely concerned their data is going to be acquired by Facebook. That’s why Facebook must be careful in how they figure out a migration from Instagram to its large network. But as for the factors above, there’s no doubt Instagram will lose its product independence eventually.

Some people, however, are more judgmental. They seem to think that every business is a mission, and that we’re all in this intricate, complex Web labyrinth to change the world one app at a time. We are not. A very few people, the Steves and Bills of this modern age, are in for the long haul – to change the way we think, and the way we live through technology. But the majority of founders – even the most passionate ones – run businesses as they should: like a business. With real money, not just ideals, to administer at the end of each month. With employees to take care of and investors to respond to. With privacy concerns, legal departments, offices, salaries, support teams, and families waiting at home, wondering why you’re sweating so much for a website anyway. Instagram is a startup with 10 employees, two co-founders, a lot of users, and no business model to start making money. Facebook comes in and offers $1 billion. What is Instagram going to say, no?

I am not saying what Instagram did was “right”. Let’s get real, it’s not about “right” or “wrong”. It’s a business. And if the solution to this business happens to be a huge social network with lots of money in the bank, and possibly a decent existing structure to migrate our product without screwing our users too much, even better. Facebook and Instagram did the obvious thing: they understood they needed each other and got together. The outcome of this choice is more blurry for now, because while Instagram gets the money, Facebook will have to do things right and figure what makes Instagram great, keep it alive, and improve on it while further connecting it to Facebook. I do hope Instagram will be kept around for the long term.

As usual, the users decide. If you are using Instagram on a daily basis, and you are sending all your photos to Facebook, then maybe this announcement won’t change anything, and perhaps you’ll enjoy some new Facebook-only perks too. If you are concerned about privacy, think Instagram has no way to work as a Facebook product, or generally don’t like the idea of a “Facebook owned” service, then you are perfectly justified to delete your account.

But we should stop thinking about web services as experiences bound to stay independent to change the world, because that is a bubble. The obvious ending is what’s best for the business.