Why Did Facebook Just Clone Instagram?

If Facebook bought Instagram so it didn't have to compete with it, why did it just put out a photo-sharing app just like Instagram?

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If Facebook bought Instagram so it didn't have to compete with it, why did the social network just put out a photo-sharing app just like Instagram?

Here's an answer that makes no sense: Facebook says it wants to compete with itself. "We’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently, so I anticipate some healthy competition," a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch's Josh Constine.

There are some differences between Instagram and Facebook Photo, the very original name Facebook chose for its clone. So we guess that might spur some intramural competition. But, even if that is Facebook's end-goal, this product looks too much like Instagram to really attract anyone who isn't already on the photo sharing network.

Facebook added exactly two improvements to give its photo sharing app a competitive advantage. Unlike Instagram, it allows for more than one photo post at a time, with a batch upload feature. Facebook has trained us to upload in batches, with albums. So, it's nice to have that feature on a filter-photo sharing app. And, as a Facebook product, the app does a better job integrating Facebook friends. The app has a feed, which acts a lot like a News Feed. Though, some who use Instagram as a separate social network might not like that.

Other than that, this is an Instagram knock-off.  The filters as one can tell from the less than nostalgic names like "bright," "light," and "cool" don't remind us that photography used to look prettier. The 'like' and 'comment' icons get all in the way of the photo. And rather than give one photo undivided filtration and shift-tilt attention, the whole batch upload thing makes it a much less artistic endeavor -- just an app for getting as many photos as possible on the Internet as possible.

This all brings us back to the question: Why did Facebook buy Instagram, if it was just going to release its own, weaker version? Some might argue it bought Instagram's people and vision, which it could have used to make this app. But, as Constine notes, this was developed without their help because the acquisition deal hasn't closed yet. So, Facebook just put out an inferior, competing product, then? Just for kicks? We guess competition with yourself is one way to ensure you win.

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