Once an insider thing around iPhone kids, the Instagram photo app and social network has now gone very mainstream.
Last week (April 3), it introduced the long-desired Android version, which garnered one million downloads in its first day, according to Google. And today, Facebook bought the startup for a hot $1 billion.
Already, Instagram users were complaining along the lines of "there goes the neighborhood" when the Android riffraff joined the party. Now their once-cool photo-sharing network is part of the same site their grandparents belong to.
But all is not lost — at least not yet. In a blog post announcing the deal, Mark Zuckerberg explained that Facebook would not immediately suck Instagram into the mega-network, writing, "We're committed to building and growing Instagram independently."
Instagram has two killer features for its fans. One, it offers a range of "filters" that modify how the often-dull phonecam photos look. ("Toaster," for example, produces an orangey, burned-looking effect, while "1977" produces a faded old photo look.) Second, it has its own social network, where people post and comment on photos and can follow people whose work they like.
With the Facebook purchase, Instagram is now a network inside a network. How that will work is hard to guess. For now, at least, it will exist on its own, retaining the ability to post to rival social networks Twitter, foursquare and tumblr, for example.
How long will that last? Zuckerberg gave a hint when he said, "We will try to learn from Instagram's experience to build similar features into our other products."
But if Facebook's photo services mimic Instagram, will it really keep the original app and network around?