Instagram vs. the Terms of Service… or is it?

Instagram's TOS Announcement is a Giant Bag of FailWhat Was Instagram’s Big Mistake?

All day long I have been inundated with news and reactions (and dare I say over reactions) to my social networks flipping out about the new announcement of the new Terms of Service for Instagram. Reactions across my various timelines streams ranged from, how to delete your Instagram account AND save your photos, to outrage that your pictures of your underaged children my or my not be sold to advertisers.

Before things got too out of hand Instagram (cough, cough… Facebook) took to the blogosphere to set the records straight. Of course by about 5:00 PM EST, it might have been too little, too late for some Instagram users. Regardless, the blog post titled “Thank you, we’re listening“, did it’s best to set the record straight. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom had this to say:

“I am grateful to everyone for their feedback and that we have a community that cares so much. We need to be clear about changes we make — this is our responsibility to you. One of the main reasons these documents don’t take effect immediately, but instead 30 days from now, is that we wanted to make sure you had an opportunity to raise any concerns. You’ve done that and are doing that, and that will help us provide the clarity you deserve. Thank you for your help in making sure that Instagram continues to thrive and be a community that we’re all proud of. Please stay tuned for updates coming soon.”

I’ll be honest, at first I was ready to dust off my Flicrk Pro account and kick my favorite App to the curve… but then I realized: I don’t post a ton of pictures of my wife and kid in the public forum of Instagram, and if someone wants to buy my pictures of comic books and action figures let them. What I do expect from Instagram is to have a readable Terms of Service that was written to be read by real people. Let’s be honest Facebook hasn’t learned from their numerous privacy issues and missteps over the year, Instagram should have known better (even though they are owned by Facebook).

What is Instagram Doing About All This?

After reading Instagram’s post, I know they understand the outrage and disappointment from their fans and users and I like the way they acted quickly in putting out their side of the story quickly, concisely and with a relatively clear call to action about their next steps. The part of the Systrom’s letter that was most clear was the topic of Photo Ownership:

Ownership Rights Instagram users own their content and Instagram does not claim any ownership rights over your photos. Nothing about this has changed. We respect that there are creative artists and hobbyists alike that pour their heart into creating beautiful photos, and we respect that your photos are your photos. Period.”

I don’t know about you, but that part of the letter is what is keeping me from jumping over to Flickr full-time right now.

What’s Next for Instagram?

Well, if they learned anything from Netfilx, they will act immediately and with their users in mind. Now, please remember Instagram is a business and they deserve to make money (after all, Facebook did buy them for about $1 billion), they just need to find the right way to do it, without violating the trust and privacy of their users. Like Twitter’s own struggles to find advertisers, Instagram will most likely fall to the old “Promoted” image/post/account model. Keep in mind Instagram is a mobile first app, so in order to keep the user experience clean, they probably won’t go with banner ads. Perhaps, they could do a “revenue sharing” model with users allowing them to mark certain photos as “For Sale”. That way they can make money and photographers make some money and it is only on photos that users choose.

Anyway, that’s just my 2 cents, on the topic. Leave a comment below about what you think of the announcement this morning, the retraction and what you think is next for our favorite photo sharing application.