Instagram LogoAs I’m sure everyone has heard by now, Facebook recently bought the image editing/sharing app Instagram for $1bn.

For those of you that haven’t heard of it, Instagram is very popular amongst iPhone users – I’d say most of the people I know with iPhones at least have it installed, even if they don’t use it frequently.  I’d show you my profile, but unless you have Instagram installed on your phone, you wouldn’t be able to see it (my username is ‘danfoy’, if you’re interested) – all that can be shared outside of the app is a link to the current photo, without linking to a profile or even other images in your stream.  Check out this photo of Kat at the Natural History Museum if you haven’t seen what a Instagram looks like outside of the app before.

The pros and cons of Facebook’s acquisition are already being debated to death on the internet, so I won’t go into them here.  What interests me is the amount Facebook is prepared to pay.  To put it into perspective, Siri – the most technologically-significant feature of the iPhone 4S – only cost apple $0.2bn or so to acquire.  Google only paid $0.75bn or so for AdMob, which had an existing userbase and was making money as a business.  Instagram doesn’t make any money.  It doesn’t even have adverts.

It’s not like Facebook needs to expand its userbase, so the only thing I can think of that Facebook would want Instagram for is what it can learn from both it and the development team, and how they can use what they learn to influence future developments in the way images are shared on Facebook.  I think it’s great that they’ve put such a high value on forward-looking ways of sharing images.