I don’t understand all the uproar over Instagram’s decision this week to ensure it had some level of access and control over the content that is generated across its service.
There seems to be a sense of entitlement these days amongst consumer web services users that everything should be free. People seem to forget that one of the main purposes of a business is to make money. More than that, a business needs to make money to ensure its very survival!
Instagram enables its users to stylize and share photos across mobile devices. The service is provided for free and has millions of users. But really Instagram is a media company but different from traditional media companies in that its users generate the content.
I would imagine that the on-going costs of developing and delivering this service are huge. The company is now taking steps to make money out of its millions of eyeballs by enabling brands to promote and market themselves within the application. To do this it needs to have some access to its users photos and data. This will help them to ensure that the advertising within the service is targeted at people where it is likely to be more relevant.
I don’t believe that anyone ever really believed that Instagram was going to start selling the photos and that they would start cropping up in greeting cards and corporate brochures. There is just a default reaction of outrage whenever a consumer web company has the nerve to try to commercialize its service.
I just don’t know what people expect? Businesses need to make money so that they can continue to develop and support their products and, ultimately, so that they can survive. Last time I looked Instagram was a business and not a charity.
Maybe the quid pro quo of ‘You use our service and we use your content’ needs to be made clearer across all of these applications but it’s pretty obvious when you stop and think about it.
It makes me thankful that we only invest in B2B companies. Businesses are prepared to pay for their technology. Indeed businesses actually prefer to pay for their technology so that they know where they stand and can hold the vendor accountable.
Maybe this is the problem. That users don’t know where they stand. But business has been going on for thousands of years with one thing in common: to try to sell a product for more than it costs to produce it.
Nothing has really changed and there’s no such thing as a free lunch..