It’s been days now since Facebook erupted the tech world with their $1B purchase of Instagram. Since then, bloggers and reporters alike have been trying to determine the causes and ramifications of the deal. Popular theories include:

  • Defense/Offense: Facebook bought a potential competitor and prevented other competitors from doing the same. As David Carr said in the New York Times, “Good for Facebook for buying a bandwagon before they got ran over by it.”
  • Mobile UX: Facebook’s mobile app is perhaps its weakest link and has been “publicly labeled as a risk to its bottom line” as reported on Instagram has mastered the platform with its simple, well-designed & loved app as proven by its 5 star App Store rating, based on more than 80,000 reviews.
  • Photos are the future: People love looking at and expressing their lives through photos, and Facebook has always been a popular platform to share these images. “Instagram is helping users create an image of themselves they’d like to be seen” quips Cliff Kuang in Co.Design.

But if we humanize Facebook, as we often do with brands these days, then their purchase of Instagram really just mimics users own adoption of the app.

Users like Instagram because it adds instant cool to photos. Without any skill, one can quickly apply a filter to create an artful image. Instagram is well loved by designers for its aesthetic and developers for its language.  So if you think of Facebook as a person, then buying Instagram for its coolness factor totally makes sense. Even they are delighted by the slick photos, smooth interface, and seamless functionality. And I’m sure they hope having Instagram in house will give them more street cred.

Furthermore, Instagram helps users construct an (apparent) authenticity – albeit, a rosy colored, vintage-romantic glimpse of their lives, carefully curated one image at a time. Facebook on the other hand, whether disliked for their privacy policies, straightjacket UI, or even their sheer size, lacks this authenticity-factor. Something that Timeline hasn’t even been able to fix completely.

And so Facebook bought the thing that is hardest to fake. It bought sincerity. – Paul Ford

So what can we expect from this recent union? Hopefully an improved mobile app, better sharing for Instagram photos (maybe even tagging), and perhaps a rebuilt Facebook? One can only dream.