Hipsters around the world were heartbroken this week with the announcement that Facebook was to purchase their beloved indie hit, Instagram.
The social networking powerhouse paid a whopping US$1 billion for the company, an impressive figure given it’s been around only 17 months, has only a dozen or so employees, and is yet to earn a single, solitary cent.
Many have speculated about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s motives for the purchase, particularly coming as it does with the company’s IPO due to take place as early as next month – usually a time to be demonstrating fiscal prudence, not plucking figures out of the air in the manner of a grey-T-shirt-wearing Doctor Evil.
Was it a bid to make Facebook more mobile? Did Zuck see the ‘gram as a rival? Or was a competitor trying to get on board? Most likely we’ll never know.
What’s been really interesting, though, is the reaction of Instagram’s fans. Just a week beforehand the app’s user base had been up in arms because their oh-so-indie app was about to be released to – shock – Android users.
With the Facebook announcement the sepia really hit the fan, as users rushed to Twitter to declare they were deleting their accounts, allegedly for privacy concerns but mostly because, well, it’s Facebook. People’s mothers are on Facebook. People who were around when photos were cropped square not because it was hip but because they just were are on Facebook. That’s so uncool. Yeesh.
In other social news, Google refreshed the look of its Google+ offering this week, taking the opportunity to announce that 170 million people had now ‘upgraded’ to the social network.
That’s an impressive user base – exactly one fifth of Facebook’s 850 million – but of course, as has been noted before, the companies have vastly different methods for finding these numbers.
The day after the figure was announced, Google CEO Larry Page was fronting a conference call to discuss the company’s latest earnings report, and explained that there are two sides to Google+, that he calls the ‘social spine’ and ‘social destination’.
The ‘spine’ is the platform which anyone with a Google account (think Gmail, YouTube) will visit in passing when accessing those other services. The ‘destination’ is the actual network itself, where one would go to make a post or participate in a hangout. The spine had millions of users before Google+ was even launched, while the destination, as Page points out, is growing from a base of zero.
The point is Google isn’t trying to out-Facebook Facebook. They’re trying to unify their offerings into one portal, and make it easier for users to share whatever they’re doing, whether that be watching a video on YouTube, or just trying to find a good place to eat. It’s an exciting vision, and I’m keen to see how it unfolds.
Finally, Toshiba unveiled an interesting take on the tablet this week, with the introduction of a 13.3-inch tablet as part of its three-pronged Excite range.
It’s a huge jump from the iPad’s 9.7-inch screen, but Toshiba is confident that different strokes will suit different folks. Critics questioned whether consumers would be interested in a tablet that was so awkward to carry, but they questioned whether people would be interested in a smartphone they couldn’t fit in their pocket too, and look what happened to that. Of course, industry analysts Gartner predicted this week that the iPad will dominate the market until at least 2016, but the other vendors have got to keep trying.
That’s it for this week! We’ll see you Monday.