Facebook Buys Instagram For $1 Billion, Turns Budding Rival Into Its Standalone Photo App

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Facebook has just finished a deal to acquire mobile photo sharing app Instagram for approximately $1 billion in cash and stock. Instagram will remain an independently branded standalone app that’s separate from Facebook, but the services will increase their ties to each other. The transaction should go through this quarter pending some standard closing procedures

Last year, documents for a standalone Facebook mobile photo sharing app were attained by TechCrunch. Now it seems Facebook would rather buy Instagram which comes with a built-in community of photographers and photo lovers, while simultaneously squashing a threat to its dominance in photo sharing.

At 27 million registered users on iOS alone, Instagram was increasingly positioning itself as a social network in its own right — not just a photo-sharing app. And it was clear that some users were doing more of the daily sharing actvities on Instagram rather than Facebook’s all-in-one mobile apps, which had to be cluttered with nearly every feature of the desktop site.

With the Instagram for Android launch last week, Instagram was going to get to 50 million registered users in a heartbeat after racking up more than 1 million in the first 24 hours. And with that kind of momentum, Facebook felt like it had to move — fast. After all, photo sharing and tagging are arguably what *made* Facebook.

Whatever you think of the price given the fact that Instagram had no revenues, the reality is it was going to be worth whatever Mark Zuckerberg felt like paying for it. Both Google and Facebook had approached Instagram several times over the past 18 months, but the talks clearly didn’t result in a deal. So Facebook was going to have to offer a huge premium over the last valuation for Systrom and the board to take any deal seriously.

[Instagram's founders from left, Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom. Portrait by Cody Pickens]

With the deal, Instagram will gain massive design and engineering resources by joining forces with Facebook, a big change after running as a famously lean company with just a handful of employees. Still, the deal seems to let Instagram stay somewhat independent and maintain some of its company culture. Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom writes in a blog post, “It’s important to be clear that Instagram is not going away.”

This is a really big departure from the way Zuckerberg has historically run Facebook as a single product. He has always been insistent that everything feed back into Facebook itself. Keeping Instagram as a separate product and brand is reminiscent of what Google has done with keeping YouTube and Android as separate fiefdoms within the company following their acquisitions.

Instagram’s investors included Benchmark Capital, Greylock Capital, Thrive Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, along with angel investors including Quora’s Adam D’Angelo, Lowercase Capital’s Chris Sacca and Square and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.

The early investors must be thrilled with the price. From our understanding, the later investors, who put capital into the company at a $500 million valuation, seem happy with basically getting a 2X in a few days after the money was wired last Thursday.

Congratulations to Instagram’s founders Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom. You opened the world’s eyes to seeing art in everyday life, and now Facebook has opened its doors to you. So in your honor, we’ve made you part of the TechCrunch home page logo.

More On The Instagram acquisition

From 0 To $1 Billion In Two Years: Instagram’s Rose-Tinted Ride To Glory

Right Before Acquisition, Instagram Closed $50M At A $500M Valuation From Sequoia, Thrive, Greylock And Benchmark

Facestagram: Five New Features Facebook + Instagram Could Launch

With Instagram Buy, Facebook Officially Pushes M&A Strategy Beyond The ‘Acqui-hire’

Insta-Backlash: Twitterverse Overreacts To Facebook’s Instagram Acquisition, Users Delete Accounts

Mark Zuckerberg posted the following letter to his Timeline about the purchase:

I’m excited to share the news that we’ve agreed to acquire Instagram and that their talented team will be joining Facebook.

For years, we’ve focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we’ll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.

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.

We think the fact that 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 to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.

These and many other features are important parts of the Instagram experience and we understand that. We will try to learn from Instagram’s experience to build similar features into our other products. At the same time, we will try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook’s strong engineering team and infrastructure.

This is an important milestone for Facebook because it’s the first time we’ve ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don’t plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.

We’re looking forward to working with the Instagram team and to all of the great new experiences we’re going to be able to build together.

[Additional reporting by Kim-Mai Cutler, Image Credit: Max Woolf]