Despite what Mark Zuckerberg says, Facebook isn’t a mobile-first company, nor do they really ‘get’ mobile. Of course, I could take the easy way out and just point to their mobile apps as evidence for this. The Android app is embarrassing and while the iOS app has improved greatly over the past year or two, it also kind of sucks when you compare it to that of Google+, Twitter, or pretty much any other social network you can think of.
But that’s not the best evidence. The best evidence is Facebook’s treatment of Instagram since they bought the service in spring of 2012 for $1 billion (yes, the final amount was a bit less, by the time the deal went through, but whatever, it’s close, and was the original amount offered).
Before Facebook bought Instagram, the service was growing and growing, and was a mobile-only experience. They started with an iOS app (iPhone, specifically – they still don’t have an iPad-optimized version), and then last year at SXSW, they announced that Android support was coming, and it did, indeed, launch shortly thereafter, much to the chagrin of arrogant iPhone users across the Internet.
Through all of this tremendous growth, there was one thing that stayed the same – Instagram was purely a mobile-only experience. Sure, there were offshoots like Statigram and Webstagram that used the API to build desktop interfaces, but that was it.
Since Facebook purchased Instagram, we’ve seen them gradually backfill the desktop experience. First, they just spruced up the photo permalinks. Then, they gave everyone’s profiles a dedicated page. While I appreciated that move, as a brand, it signaled the oncoming shift back to desktop. More recently, Instagram announced the ability to view your stream from the desktop, including liking and commenting, as well as a few other barebones features.
Interestingly, in the blog post announcing the latest desktop-friendly addition, co-founder Kevin Systrom takes time to clarify:
We do not offer the ability to upload from the web as Instagram is about producing photos on the go, in the real world, in realtime.
It’s still not as robust of an experience as Webstagram or Statigram, or whatever other one you prefer, but it’s a shift, nonetheless. Instead of focusing solely on the mobile-only experience that Instagram built themselves on, and making that a better experience, they’ve been wasting resources building a desktop interface that already existed through 3rd parties.
UPDATE: Just caught wind of this great post on ReadWriteWeb about the same thing. Glad to see I’m not the only one.