Facebook, Instagram, and the Acquisition as Interface


Facebook just acquired Instagram (which, as Android user, I’d only just started to enjoy) for $1B. Given Zuckerberg’s plainly stated strategy of stripmining his “acquisitions” for their talent and leaving the acquired products for dead, this bummed me out.

But Alexis Madrigal has a more optimistic take on the deal, noting Zuckerberg’s “surprisingly humble” statement announcing it. From that statement:

We believe these are different experiences that complement each other. But in order to do this well, we need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook.
That’s why we’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.
If Zuckerberg isn’t b.s.ing us, this does sound like a good thing. It’s not acquistion as ingestion (and inevitable excretion); it’s acquisition as interface. If Instagram really can continue to be the engaging standalone product that it is now, but reach more people because it’s attached to/fronted by Facebook, that does sound like a win for everyone.
It took me a minute to think of an acquisition that has actually played out like this, but there is one: Google’s acquisition of YouTube. This is a great example of acquisition-as-interface: YouTube wasn’t swallowed up by Google, it just became connected to it in useful ways. Because the companies, teams, and products were able to directly connect with each other (while remaining separate), that translated into more useful interfaces and user experiences for the rest of us. (Google’s recent redesign of YouTube notwithstanding.)
This is the web. More acquisitions — hell, all of them? — should be like this. Products work, they become popular, they get gobbled up and forgotten get connected and more useful.
Here’s hoping.

3 Responses to “Facebook, Instagram, and the Acquisition as Interface”

  1. This is also an admission that Facebook does not get apps. Which is pretty much the story of the decade for all the companies that built their fortunes on the open web…

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