Today Twitter and mobile photo-sharing app Instagram took one step apart from each other, but this isn’t necessarily a sign that Instagram is stepping further into the arms of its new owner, Facebook.
In a conversation today between Kevin Systrom, the co-founder of Instagram, and MG Siegler at LeWeb, Systrom noted that Instagram will remain an independent company, or that’s the plan for now at least. “The current plan is for Instagram to exist outside of Facebook for long time to come,” he said.
Instagram has taken a few steps to strengthen its own position — for example through the creation of web-based profiles for users, which in the past were only viewable through its iPhone and Android apps.
Instagram and Facebook are still looking for ways to leverage each others’ audience bases, Systrom said. “We want to figure out what the sweetspot is [between Facebook and Instagram], how they overlap,” he said. “We want to think where they come together in deep open graph integrations.”
One key to how viewing how Instagram might look several years down the line, Systrom said, is to consider YouTube at Google — Systrom’s former employer.
“We want to find an independent path for Instagram as a product…YouTube continued to remain a separate product at Google,” both in terms of product vision and staffing, he noted. But, although he didn’t add it, YouTube also has become an important part of Google’s advertising business. That, too, could be a fitting template to consider when thinking of how Instagram will fit into Facebook longer-term.
Don’t take what Systrom says on the stage of LeWeb too literally, though. As host Loic LeMeur pointed out, Kevin Systrom once said on the LeWeb stage that he would never sell Instagram. We know how that one ended.
Instagram has been growing massively this year. Systrom noted that when Facebook first announced that it would acquire Instagram, the startup had 25 million users. By the time the acquisition closed, the number of users was 100 million. It’s not clear whether that lift came from the Facebook association, or whether it would have grown that fast anyway (other factors include the new Android app it launched this year to complement its existing iOS one). Being courted by the world’s largest social network certainly would have raised Instagram’s profile regardless.