Instagram's filters helped differentiate the app early on as a photo-sharing social network, that pushed to other social networks, like Facebook and Twitter.
So many of the Instagram-filtered photos wind up on Facebook that it just makes sense for Facebook to just buy the app -- for a billion dollars.
Facebook's stated 2.0 strategy is to be a platform for best-of-breed services and functions. And being able to take a snapshot with your phone, add a filter or two to make it nostalgic / hipster / anomalous / saturated and it's rocketed Instagrmas distribution and grown its audience; hence, today's big deal with FB.
Writing on its blog, Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom said:
It's important to be clear Instagram isn't going away. We'll be working with Facebook to evolve Instagram and build the network. We'll continue to add new features to the product and find new ways to create a better mobile photos experience.
He went on to add that his company is "psyched" to be joining the platform and to build a better Instagram. He should be psyched. And amped and stoked.
He runs an app that makes the mundane prettier.
It's not a portal or a platform or a chain of restaurants. Of course, other companies have passed up the chance to be gought early on -- Friendster and Yahoo -- and those shareholders will neve see, in the latter's example, the $35/share they once did.
Flickr actually did sell to Yahoo, but Yahoo hasn't exactly caught fire with its plans for the photo-upload service.
Passing the chance to be bought has backfired before, but this isn't a Google situation. This is an app: some software that makes mundane pictures prettier -- or at least more distinct.
But once everyone slaps a Sutro filter on a shot of their cat, will it still be worth a billion dollars worth of "Awwww." Nope.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on his Timeline, "We think Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post on other social networks... ."
This was a genius exit strategy for Instagram.
(Disclosure: NBC-owned sites have an agreement with Instagram, so as to more easily accept users' pictures via hashtag. Click here to see an example.)