The question has been lingering in the back of my mind for a while now, “Am I really getting anything out of Instagram?”
When I first joined, Instagram solved a problem — it was a fast, fun, and unique way to share photographs across a number of services. Anything I shot while mobile had the opportunity to be instantly shared to Twitter or Facebook, backed up to Flickr, and have the appeal of applied filters (something I'd been accomplishing via Photoshop and CameraBag respectively). I immediately dubbed it “the app Flickr should've built” after my first upload, but then retracted that assessment when I got a closer look at the cost in quality/resolution on the Instagram side.
Last year in February I ran a comparison of Instagram and Picplz and likened the two companies to the battle that was emerging between Facebook and Flickr over photosharing dominance. It's funny how that turned out, Instagram later sold to Facebook for piles of cash, and Picplz shut down. In many ways, Picplz launched an app similar to the existing Flickr product, with a few standouts — filters and the ability to toggle applied filters on/off post-publishing.
A lot has changed since then. I never gave up on Flickr being the place my photos are stored, however the community activity has waned a bit. The good news is, Yahoo! appears to be putting more wood behind the Flickr arrow in the new Marissa Mayer regime. The 2.0 app is a revelation — not perfect, but a damn solid step in the right direction. If you can do it on the Flickr site, you can do it in the app…and it's snappy as all hell. Filters have been added, although that's not the important piece of the puzzle. What matters is that the community infrastructure is still intact. The wood isn't completely rotted, it's just a little more vacant these days. That's not a bad thing.
I've been playing around with the new app in combination with Snapseed (full disclosure: I work for Google and they own Nik Software), and I find the pairing to be quite ideal. I have been favoriting photos, commenting, and uploading on the go since the launch of the app, and slowly others appear to be resurfacing as well.
So what solution does Instagram serve now? Nothing. Are there people there? Sure. I just don't know that I need to be there too. I'm increasingly more wary of the direction they will be heading in the future, so why stress about it? I have all the control I need on Flickr, and the Pro membership isn't unreasonable to ask for in trade-off.
Here is what I plan to upload as my final post on Instagram:
I'm not sure if I'll completely remove my account and all of my photos, but I will slowly delete photos of my kids and my home over time. I have them backed up elsewhere, so I don't see a need to keep them there considering the loose soil of the Instagram/Facebook TOS. For what it's worth, I've taken a hard line against uploading to Facebook as well. I guess this is the natural evolution of things, and I've decided to keep my eggs in the Flickr basket for now.