Honestly, when I woke up this morning and saw that Facebook had forked out a mind-blowing $1 billion for Instagram, I had to do the BBC-thing and verify it from three independent sources. That one of my sources was the BBC didn't matter. Still, there it was in MacBook screen technicolour.
Last week, when I asked what was next for Instagram, I mentioned that it was taking slow and carefully placed steps towards social media domination. Over 30 million people were sharing their lives photographically through the app, and it was set to grow, and grow, and grow. Facebook was hardly going to be ignorant of this, and there was no better means of keeping their photo-sharing enemy closer than by gobbling it up. Even if Facebook wasn't concerned for Instagram's independent rise, which I doubt, the prospect of another company laying its grubby mitts on the 30 million subscriber prize would have been enough to motivate it to make Instagram an offer it couldn't refuse.
Zuckerberg has been quick to point out that Instagram will continue to be developed independently of Facebook and that users won't be forced to share their images on Facebook or prevented from sharing them via any other means of social media: 'We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.'
Kevin Systrom echoed similar sentiments on his blog over at Instagram: 'You’ll still have all the same people you follow and that follow you.You’ll still be able to share to other social networks. And you’ll still have all the other features that make the app so fun and unique.'
I'm terribly cynical when it comes to Facebook - that's not something I've ever kept secret - so whilst it may remain the case that Instagram users need have no obvious and overt relationship with Facebook, it's still Facebook at the top of the foodchain with its talons firmly embedded in its photo-snapping prey. Also, I wouldn't be surprised if a little further down the line sharing photos to Facebook becomes a default and sharing to other networks just that tiny bit harder. But I am a cynic.
I'm not the only one, though; there has been a clutch of people jacking in their Instagram accounts in protest. It's highly doubtful that out of Instagram's 30 million users there will be more than a handful of dissenters, so their impact won't be more than a drop in an ocean. However, for a lot of people Instagram's appeal was its simplicity - just a photo and a filter. That's the one thing that Instagram and Facebook need most definitely to hang on to.