Rightfully so, the internet had a full hissy fit. A temper tantrum of monumental proportions.
Some people thought it was OK because Instagram is free. Let's get something straight. None of these services with user-generated content are free. They are gathering a goldmine of data from our posts. Data about us, our locations, our preferences - all used to market to us and our friends. Which in of itself is a bit sticky, but since it provides value to both sides of the table, and as long as a service gives the user clear guidelines (which Facebook has been pretty sketchy about), I personally think this is a great symbiotic relationship.
But then some people said, "Well, what are the chances they will use my photo out of the millions on Instragram?" I honestly had to sit on this one for a while, because I could not even get my head around it. We joined Instagram, many of the users being professional photographers who do sell their photos, to share photos with community... not have that service use them for their own gain. Period.
The good news is the hissy fit was crazy-loud. Way louder than the few who didn't care.
So, in turn, Instagram's co-founder Kevin Systrom posted this apology on their blog, ostensibly to stop the hemorrhaging of users to Flickr, who magically had a kick-butt update to their iPhone app that very same week.
My favorite part is where it implies we were to stupid to understand what they meant, even though most tech magazines reported the TOS just as what it said: We can take your photos and do whatever we want with them.
Here's the rub. People have calmed down.
Trust me. I want to chill out too. I love Instagram. I am pretty sure I am actually addicted to Instagram, given my lethargy over the past few weeks.
But this paragraph is particularly troubling to me:
You probably know this, but Facebook now owns Instagram. And Facebook has been doing some very shady things with their advertising, content, and promoted posts for the past year or so.
For example. A Facebook brand page gains a bunch of fans. Fans like a brand page because they want to see that content in their news stream. Everyone lives happily ever after, right?
At the advent of promoted posts, unless a brand paid to promote their posts, less and less of their existing fans would see them.
I call this content manipulation, and something these services have no business doing. The users should guide what content they see, either by preferences or by specific choices. Not by who pays the most to infultrate their stream.
I am not talking accompanying ads. I mean, you are reading a book and chunks of the book are removed and replaced with ads.
With all the brilliant minds who are working for these services, I know they can come up with a much better solution for monetization than this. Until then, while I know what they are doing is legal, I don't think it is ethical. It's like they are contributing to the delinquency of the internet. The Honey Boo Boo of user generated content.
We can do better, can't we?
See you back on Flickr until they figure it out.