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Facebook launches mobile pic-sharing app

Facebook has introduced a new mobile device picture-sharing application less than two months after agreeing to buy Instagram, a similar app, for $1bn.

The acquisition of Instagram, which was already one of the most popular applications on Apple's iOS operating system and had recently been introduced to Android devices, was seen as a major push into the mobile social media field.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, said after the purchase that he was going to be "building and growing Instagram independently", suggesting that the two picture-sharing apps may operate alongside one another, for now.

Facebook is not the first high-profile web group to acquire a company while developing its own near-identical service. Google bought YouTube for $1.65bn in 2006, giving the search company one of the flagship online video sites. Google had previously launched Google Video (now called Google Videos) as a competitor to YouTube, but failed to gain traction.

Facebook's new app, named Camera, will serve as a standalone programme for users to share pictures with friends through Facebook accounts via their mobile devices. It features the ability to share multiple photos, add captions and tag friends – capabilities that bear a strong resemblance to Instagram.

Belatedly, Facebook has sought to develop its mobile capabilities in recent months, launching other applications such as Page Manager and Messenger, while also acknowledging in initial public offering documents the challenge of making money from users on mobile devices.

However, the user base of Facebook, now at more than 900m, dramatically dwarfs that of Instagram, which has a little more than 50m users, although it continues to grow quickly.

Instagram became one of the most popular mobile apps partially by allowing users to edit photos in a variety of ways, most notably with filters. Camera has more basic photo editing capabilities, said Chris Silva, industry analyst at Altimeter Group, showing that Camera is not directly competing against Instagram at this time.

"I think the aim here is all about the creation and sharing of content, not as much about tweaking and editing of content," Mr Silva said. "I think they look at the two projects as different and independent, at least in the near term."

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