Is Facebook's camera app a threat to Instagram?

By Nisha Menon , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Digital | May 28, 2012
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The launch of the photo-sharing app has set off alarm bells about whether Facebook plans to phase out the recently acquired Instagram.

A little over a month after social networking giant Facebook announced the acquisition of Instagram, a photo-sharing platform, for $1 billion, it has introduced a specialised photo-sharing app, Camera, for iPhones.

The new free photo-sharing app allows users to share multiple photos all at once, crop images, add captions, tag friends and use filters to add effects to the picture. The app offers many features similar to that of Instagram, including several filters and the ability to share pictures with friends separately from Facebook's main ecosystem.

Buying out competition

Facebook has been facing flak for the mediocre picture sharing features available on Facebook for Mobile app. The ability to edit the pictures using the app and upload them in batches has been missing in the app. With the Camera app, this has been addressed successfully.

The social networking platform has, for quite some time, worked to develop an application that addresses all the issues flagged by users but was unable to execute it so far. Instead, it decided to bag Instagram, which came with a built-in community of photographers and photo lovers. A lot has been said and written about why Facebook decided to buy Instagram in the first place. The newly launched Facebook Camera affirms that the Instagram acquisition was a clever and well-thought strategy to beat competition.

Girish Mahajan

Shubho Sengupta

Zafar Rais

Calling the acquisition as a strategic move by Facebook to systematically take out competition, Girish Mahajan, co-founder and director, Webitude, says, "Facebook had been working on the app for a while now, but could not execute it. With Instagram in its kitty, the technology just gave a boost to the app and hence the release. Buying out Instagram is an excellent move by Facebook as not only did it kill competition but also managed to get its hands on technology that has aided in the release of the camera app."

Death of Instagram?

The launch of the Camera app has set tongues wagging on whether Facebook is gearing up to phase out Instagram. When the acquisition was announced, many were surprised as it was a deviation from the manner in which Facebook has functioned over the years - keeping it under one product umbrella. Keeping Instagram as a separate product and brand is reminiscent of what Google has done with YouTube following its acquisition.

Digital consultant Shubho Sengupta believes that the launch of the Camera app will not mark the end of Instagram. He says, "Instagram will do for Facebook what YouTube did for Google. Facebook being an extremely dynamic platform, we will see a lot of apps being launched in the coming few months, as these will prove to be the key to monetisation."

Zafar Rais, co-founder and CEO, Mindshift Interactive believes that this launch and the acquisition of Instagram provide Facebook an excellent chance to tap into more users. He says, "While Facebook comes with its history of providing new features and letting users adapt and then get addicted to them, Instagram comes with a base of loyalists to help it hold its ground, provided it looks at new features and building the network in a healthy manner. At the end of the day, there's plenty of space for every social network, provided you're able to make your mark and cater to your audiences. What would be the ideal situation though, is for Facebook Camera and Instagram to merge strengths."

Strengthening mobile

Mobile has been the Achilles heel for Facebook. With an IPO that many are calling a debacle, the need for Facebook to strengthen its mobile interface becomes imperative. It had recently launched App Center, seen by many as baby steps to develop the mobile medium. The new Camera app launch is also indicative of the fact that Facebook has started diverting its technological expertise toward mobile, which may prove to be a key to monetisation of its services.

With the launch of this app, Facebook has once again shown the importance it gives to the medium owing to its monetistion opportunities. Nikhil Kharbanda, social media head, Ignitee Digital believes that for Facebook, mobile is the way of the future. He says, "Facebook will be looking at mobile as a crucial component of revenue growth and generation. It has been constantly working towards establishing FB Credits as a payment mechanism. Facebook can monetise this app in two ways - one by coming up with a paid version of the app, which offers more value in terms of functionalities and secondly, it can monetise the end product, which will depend on what the user decides to do with the picture. For example, printing it, framing, sending it as a gift are just a few options it may experiment with."

Rais sums up, "I feel Facebook's mobile-focused strategy is towards the larger picture of gaining a strong foothold within the mobile market, securing a pleasant space for the future and then tapping the monetary aspect of it. Monetisation is important, as is for every successful business to keep the attention of stakeholders, and Facebook has moved consistently in that direction with the new features and services.

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