Once upon a time a big tech company bought a smaller photo sharing tech start-up and ruined both. That's the story Gizmodo's Mat Honan tells in his long read report on the demise of Flickr at the hands of Yahoo. But, that paradigm sounds familiar to a modern-day tech company marriage of unequals: Facebook and Instagram.
It's been over a month since Facebook bought Instagram, and it hasn't killed it -- not yet. But, from reading Honan's account of Flickr and Yahoo, both the big and little guy in this situation are susceptible to ruin. And while we're learning lessons from the tech giant of yesteryear, Google, which looks a lot like Yahoo these days, should take some notes, too.
Lessons for Facebook
Don't botch the transition. Considering Instagram has a passionate community coming with it as it migrates to Facebook, it stands to lose a big chunk of its fans, if it implements some sort of annoying something or other that will disrupt the Instagram way of life. That's exactly what happened with Flickr, as Honan tells it. The company, to further its own interests, instituted a mandatory Yahoo login for Flickr users. And here's how that worked out, per Honan:
Yahoo's RegID solution turned out to be a nightmare for the existing community. You could no longer use your existing Flickr login to get to your photos, you had to use a Yahoo one. If you did not already have a Yahoo account, you had to create one. And you did not even log in on Flickr's home page, upon arriving, you were immediately kicked over to a Yahoo login screen.
Although Flickr grew tremendously with the huge influx of Yahoo users, the existing community of highly influential early adopters was infuriated. It was an inelegant transition, and seemed to ignore what the community wanted (namely, a way to log in without having to sign up for a Yahoo account). This was the opposite of what people had come to expect from Flickr. It was anti-social.
And it very much delivered a message, to both users and to the team at Flickr: You're part of Yahoo now.
Facebook: Don't force Instagram lovers to login using Facebook. It will alienate users. This seems like a likely change the social network might make, with its everything-connected-all-the-time strategy. It already does it with Spotify. But, Instagram, like Flickr, has an existent user community, which brings us to the second don't.