April 10, 2012

Facebook Buys Instagram

How to think about this : 

1) Facebook is in the face recognition business. (They run algorithms on all the photos posted to them)

2) Facebook (as all the big social network are) is in the "find where people are" business. ("locative services")

You don't even have to go conspiracy theorist (Facebook part owned by the CIA) to see that Instagram gives Facebook another massive injection of photo data about who is where with who and when. And that this can be mined for all sorts of valuable information and patterns.

FB can discover relationships between people and places that no-one has explicitly told them about. They can tell advertisers where you like to hang-out socially. And who with. You think they aren't trying "sentiment analysis" to try to figure out whether people in photos are happy or sad? What's it worth to FB to know which bars in London have the happiest customers? Or which companies have the most drunken
employees? Or that you like motorcycles?

Google are after this data too. That's why they just brought out  wearable "glasses" that can tell Google what you're looking at. Instagram might very well be Facebook's response in the "grab" for rich visual data streams.

Some people are noting the potential threat to FB from Pinterest too and saying this is a defensive move. Today is a great day for Pinterest. Someone will be trying to snap that up soon.


Daniel Lemire said...

1) Obviously, these companies are worried because there is little regulations to protect them from clever start-ups. They know it is a matter of time before they are dislodged.

2) Sure, Facebook is a privacy nightmare. But Google has a lot more data about me as it stands.

It is hard to tell how serious a problem this will turn out to be.

Scribe said...

Hi Phil, my comment turned into a blogpost:


My guess is that Facebook sees itself as a story-telling machine. Timelines, acquaintance history - and now, as you say, places and photos. Any good story needs to appeal to the memory, hence Social Nostalgia.