Instagram Loyalists Want to Keep the Joy of Filters All to Themselves

Facebook's looking to get in on the filtered photo action

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Sure people like Instagram, the iPhone-only photo-sharing app that allows photographers to add filters to their photos, because it gives otherwise normal pics a totally sweet twee veneer; but they also love it because, like all things cool, it's niche--or at least it feels like it. And now Facebook is going to go ahead and ruin all the cool kids' fun by putting their not-so-little--Instagram has 8 million users--secret in the hands of the masses, reports Bits Blog's Nick Bilton. "Facebook plans to add a series of photo filters to its mobile application in the coming months with the hopes of drawing off fans of  Instagram, the popular photo-sharing application." Instagram loyalists are freaking out because we all know once something goes mainstream, it loses its hipness, and then before you know it nobody will care about filtered-photo sharing anymore. Instagramers would prefer to hoard the joy of filters for themselves.

Some worry that Facebook's users won't use filters with caution. Gizmodo's Sam Biddle can't bear to see his beloved app massacred by Facebook's tasteless mainstream users. "Facebook, having stolen MySpace's chair, is the paragon of poor taste. Its users are a globby nebula of tackiness, low brows, and perhaps above all, horrible photos... And there's no more irritating place to superfluously alter photos than this kind of mundane shit pit." Not all Facebook photos are uploaded with the intention to impress your artsy friends, points out Techland's Chris Gayomali. "Instagram's audience tends to be photo savvy; there's an element of competition to take better photos than your friends, and you're not just uploading photos from the bar (although people do)."

But some don't have as much of a problem with the way in which Facebookers would wield their new toy. It's more that they sense filter overload. "As I see it, though, photo filters have moved from clever to cliche. The novelty has worn off, and novelty was the main reason to do it in the first place," argues CNET's Steven Shankland. Sometimes less is more, adds Biddle. "Hipstamatic popularized it, Instagram perfected it--and now Facebook's going to democratize it. Which, great? Isn't making something accessible to everyone a good thing? Yes, when it's malaria medication. Not when it's vuvuzelas."

And even if people use filters sparingly, Facebook's sharing system doesn't have the same beautiful simplicity as Instagram's, which kind of ruins the fun of filtration. With a click and a tap, photographers can upload to Instagram, and then viewers can just scroll through a stream of precious pics. Facebook's system is more cumbersome, continues Gayomali. "For starters, the funnel to actually upload pictures requires a confusing array of clicks and unclear navigation." To him filters make photo-sharing more enjoyable for users--which is the point, isn't it?--but it won't elevate Facebook photos enough. "To me, though, adding photo filters to Facebook is like stringing Christmas lights on a house that badly needs repainting. Facebook's system isn't broken, it just needs to be refreshed and made more user-friendly."

Unfortunately for Instagram snobs, filters will make it to Facebook. Sorry to ruin your cool, but does seeing photos of college girls taking shots with a Hefe filter make it that much worse than before?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.