Facebook Pulls Camera App Out of Its Hat as Instagram Deal Pends
After putting $1B on the table to purchase Instagram, it turns out Facebook has a mobile camera app of its own that's quite similar -- and instead of waiting to integrate the two, Facebook has launched its Camera app before the Instagram deal is done. "I think a lot of people are confused," said Sean Ludwig, a staff writer for VentureBeat. "People are wondering, 'Why now?'"
With some hoopla, the Facebook Camera app hit the iTunes App Store on Thursday.
A fairly simple app, it syncs with a user's Facebook account, offers a variety of Instagram-like photo editing tools, and allows for the upload of multiple photos at once. It also geotags photos and collects all of the photos uploaded by friends in one stream that's viewable within the app.
The app's editing tools allow for cropping and adding effects like "coffee," "highlight," "neon" and "bright." Before or after they've been edited, the photos can instantly be posted, either one at a time or in groups, to Facebook.
Notably, however, the app does not give the option of adding photos to existing albums or creating new albums -- something that Facebook users might find frustrating.
The app is a good beginning, but it does have its problems, Internet marketing expert Brian Carter told MacNewsWorld.
"It's a great start, social and simple to use," said Carter. "It's not perfect -- you can't post to an album or create a new album. Some people are unhappy with requiring a location for the photos."
It's a strong offering from Facebook, said Todd Bailey, vice president of marketing and digital strategy at WebiMax.
"I am impressed," he told MacNewsWorld. "I find it easy to use. The batch share is a feature that Instagram lacks. The filters are not quite as good as Instagram's, but overall the speed and the ability to do the batch share are impressive. It's a good app for Facebook."
Facebook released the app just as it's in the process of purchasing the popular photo editing and sharing company, Instagram, and it's not exactly clear why the release came when it did.
"In light of the Instagram purchase, I think a lot of people are confused," Sean Ludwig, staff writer for VentureBeat, told MacNewsWorld. "People are wondering, 'Why now?'"
The app may already have been in development, and when the integration of Instagram into Facebook is complete, it might evolve to become something of a Facebook-ized Instagram, Ludwig hypothesized.
"This probably was in the works way before Instagram, so they didn't want to throw away their work," he said. "Maybe this is just a testing ground so they can add to Instagram later. All of those features could be folded into Instagram. There's a lot of potential here."
The app could be the first step toward integrating Facebook and Instagram, Carter also suggested.
"I wouldn't be surprised if, over the next year, they connected the two, allowed people to shift away from Instagram easily to Facebook Camera, and then phased Instagram out," he said.
It's more likely that Facebook Camera will be kept separate from Instagram, in Bailey's view, particularly given the large and loyal user base on the Instagram side.
"I see them, at least for the short term, staying two separate apps, since there are so many loyal users on the Instagram side," he said. "I see them remaining as separate applications with separate community features."
The primary impetus behind this app is its mobile capability. There are plenty of apps for editing photos, and many of them have more sophisticated editing tools than Facebook Camera. The Facebook app, however, combines its basic editing functions with a smooth, easy-to-use social interface.
"People want to have an easy means of uploading multiple photos," said Ludwig. "Here's an opportunity to make it easy to upload your photos to Facebook."
For many people, Facebook has become the primary place for uploading and storing digital photos, a sort of free photo box in the cloud, and this app will help facilitate that kind of photo sharing.
"I consider it to be my photo collection," said Ludwig. "When I'm taking personal photos, Facebook is a great way to store them."
Given pressure from sites like Pinterest, getting users to spend more mobile time with Facebook has become a primary goal of the company. This app, according to Bailey, will help keep Facebook users engaging with the site through their mobile devices.
"With this application, Facebook is recognizing that photo sharing and photo community are integral to its strategies," said Bailey. "This app is another service offering to get people to spend more time on Facebook on the mobile side."