As likely all my readers have heard, Instagram has changed (well actually will be changing on January 16th) their terms of service. They say that they have “the perpetual right to sell users’ photographs without payment or notification”. Those of us who have interest in photography and have been around social networks for a while have seen this before. The owners of Facebook who happen to be the new owners of Instagram created the same policy a few years back. There was public outcry by fellow photographers and a few abandoned the site for a while, but that died down. Many came back in part because for good or bad it is THE social network.
But this is different. You can merrily bounce around Facebook without posting photos or at least not posting photos that you would like to keep control of. Instagram is almost only about photos. There is a social element (which I never felt was a strong as Flickr once was), but like Flickr, if you take away the photos, there is nothing left since the photos are reason for the social interaction.
Can Instagram turn this around? Yes, they have time over the next month to reverse their decision. Facebook has done it before even though they did not do that regarding photos. But the problem is that the damage is already done and trust has been broken. People can, will, and have gone elsewhere. There are a plethora of sites and apps that have been trying to mimic Instagram and any one of them could replace them. The trick is that for any one place to work, it needs to gain a strong enough following that EVERYONE goes there much like everyone eventually went to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Instagram. Whether Instagram can weather this is yet to be seen. As I said many of my photography friends have abandoned it, but if friends and family don’t follow, many may return for the social aspect (assuming they reverse their decision).
I find this all unfortunate because Instagram reinvigorated my interest in photography for a second time. The first time was with Flickr, but due to some changes they had made, many of my friends slowly disappeared from the site. (You may start to think that my friends are fickle, but they have valid reasons for their actions.) Anyhow, when I got an iPhone just over a year ago, I found myself with a decent portable camera and a method to process and share photos instantly. I’ve loved that aspect of Instagram. Plus it’s on a minimalist user-friendly website. It kept getting better since I was able easily share my images with the greater audience of Facebook and many of my non-photographer friends and family started joining. It became more social and finally replaced Flickr.
But this policy has me not only thinking about my photos on Instagram, but also my photos on Facebook. After a while, I became lax about my boycott of placing photos on FB. And Facebook has a horrible user-interface for their photo management such as the inability to move photos from set to set or share them between sets like you can on Flickr. So I’m seriously considering removing all my non-essential images from Facebook and reverting back to Flickr which still has the protections I want. As everyone has been noting, Flickr was rather timely in revamping their app since the previous version had a horrible user interface and it was one of the knocks against staying with them.
So I will be sad to stop using Instagram since it was a perfect way to share photos while out and about. I will continue to share photos with friends and family on Facebook, but it will require more work on my part and will result in fewer posts of pictures. Currently the only way I’ve found to ‘share’ photos without posting them to Facebook is by cutting and pasting the link into a status. Something that I haven’t found an easy way to do with my iPhone yet. So it will require that I do it from a sit-down computer, not a smartphone.
On the flipside, I will be happy if everyone goes back to using Flickr. It had it’s faults, but I still feel it is the best photo-sharing social network around. It’ll be fun if we can get the band back together. Are you in?