Instagram Future Uncertain As Facebook Releases New ‘Facebook Camera’ App (FB)

Posted by · May 24, 2012 3:37 pm

Facebook Camera, Instagram future uncertainIs it just me, or does it seem that the popular thing nowadays is for big companies to acquire other businesses, not because they want to improve them for users, but rather because they want to eliminate potential competition? It’s become a springtime tradition over at Google. Twitter did it when it purchased Summify back in January. And now, Facebook appears to be next in line.

As if there wasn’t already enough uncertainty generated by Facebook’s, shall we say, less-than-transparent Wall Street debut, a new product launch from Zuckerberg and company threatens to leave users even more bewildered.

After Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion back in April, ideas of how the social network might use its wealth of resources to improve the popular photo app flourished. Furthermore, for those who were concerned about the app’s uncertain fate, Instagram CEO Kevin Stystrom assured users that Instagram “will still be the same one you know and love.”

Between me and you, I think he may have spoken too soon.

In a Thursday announcement, Facebook revealed none other than an iPhone camera app of its own. Its name: Facebook Camera.

Take a look for yourself:

“We’ve been working on it for a while,” explained Facebook Photos manager Dirk Spook, speaking with Wired’s Alexandra Chang (catch her recap here). While this much is likely true, it hardly serves to quell concerns over Instagram’s future.

Although the deal isn’t expected to close until sometime later this year, this rather unpredictable move by Facebook doesn’t seem to bode well for the app’s future. However, as the acquisition process continues, Spook insists Facebook is “committed to building Instagram independently,” noting the “very different personalities” of each app.

Even still, “it’s hard not to compare the two,” Chang says.

Describing the new photo app as “Facebook’s Instagram,” John Brownlee of the Apple blog Cult of Mac skeptically wonders, “[I]f Facebook was working on an app like this, why did they bother buying Instagram?” Answering his own question, Brownlee continues, “If they had [Facebook Camera] in the works the whole time, the most likely reason is to drain Instagram’s talent and tech, then kill it off before no one shared photos on Facebook anymore.”

Indeed, one can’t help but wonder if Facebook really had any long-term interest in Instagram, but instead saw $1 billion as the price of being able to “put a bullet through its head before it became a real threat,” as Brownlee suggests.

After all, developing the two apps separately doesn’t exactly fit in with Facebook’s grander business scheme, especially now that the focus must exclusively be the social network’s continued growth. To promote Instagram and Facebook Camera separately would likely cause the opposite effect.

What do you think? Are Instagram’s days numbered? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

For more on Facebook Camera and Instagram’s uncertain future…