Even if people at your house haven't been using Instagram, which might be called socially mobile "Photoshop for dummies" (thanks, ZDNET, for the Photoshop part), you may've heard that Facebook bought the photo-sharing service for $1 billion, making it seem like the "Hotmail" of this decade (so far). Instagram, which launched in 2010, "is a small company in San Francisco, with a six-person team," the Houston Chronicle reports, but in terms of price, it’s Facebook’s biggest acquisition." The service was part social networking service, part iPhone app, until last week, when it "launched its first Android app," the Chronicle added, then displayed some of the more clever tweets about this news. The most popular aspect of Instagram – besides how easy it makes sharing photos – are its filters, the way you can play with photos, be an instant, artful photographer (sort of). Kind of like the Rock Band or Guitar Hero of photography, for families that play one of those console games. There hasn't been much news about it in the kid-tech space, but it's reportedly a hot property among young cellphone users in Arkansas this spring, see a fairly balanced local TV news story that zoomed in on a cyberbullying incident around Instagram. But I was interested to hear Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom tell an interviewer last fall that they made "keeping the community clean and positive" – something other startups have had to learn about the hard way (e.g., the app "Color") – a priority from the beginning. He told interviewer Paul Sawers that they hired a community manager before hiring a developer, notably. More and more startups and investors will be seeing this as good business sense, I suspect.
Unusually, Facebook plans to keep Instagram operating independently, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in his blog post about the acquisition. Other things that'll continue: "We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook." For more parental perspective, see YourSphere's pre-acquisition review, which reports the good news that geotagging is off by default, but I disagree with the characterization of Facebook as simply an "adult-intended" site.
* A background piece in TheNextWeb last fall, based on an interview with Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, about how the startup identified the three problems it was going to solve for users: speed (convenience), distribution, and beauty (leveraging the iPhone's high-quality photo technology).