Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

Oh, and Another Thing About FaceTagram: Your Location

Last August, it was reported that Facebook was considering the introduction of photo filters to its service, as the millions using popular photo-sharing app Instagram continued to multiply. Now, it’s gone ahead and spent $1 billion on Lo-Fi, Valencia and the rest of them.

It’s not all about the filters, of course.

But it is about mobile photos. Facebook is currently the largest photo-storage site in the world, with an average of 250 million photos uploaded per day, as Kara Swisher notes here. A 2011 Pew Internet study showed that 20 percent of Facebook users cop to commenting on a Facebook photo at least once a day. Many felt that Instagram, with its user base of around 33 million — and with about a million of those users having signed up immediately after the Android version of the mobile app launched last week — was increasingly becoming a real threat in the social networking space.

And there’s another small-but-noteworthy value-add here for Facebook as well: Your location.

Instagram, which was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger back in March of 2010, has an easy-to-use geotag feature in its photo-sharing process that lets users tell everyone exactly where they were when they took their photos.

So simple, in fact, some users complained it was too easy to accidentally geotag photos when they didn’t mean to. Last May, the company released an updated version of the app that made it more clear to consumers when they were letting the world know their location.

It’s still unclear what percentage of Instagram photos shared are actually geotagged. Instagram hasn’t responded to AllThingsD for comment yet, presumably because its dozen or so employees are still popping champagne corks.

Anecdotally, my own Instagram feed is filled with vintage-y photos that tell me exactly where people are: Central Park on a nice spring day, the office on a mundane Monday, parts of Italy during a vacation or even that artisanal food shop on a Friday night (hipsters and their photo apps!).

When a location isn’t specified, Instagram loses some of its original appeal: That of the modern postcard, easily shared through a simple mobile app.

Now, let’s look at Facebook’s mostly failed efforts in location up until now. In 2010, the company bought and shut down geolocation app Hot Potato, in a move that was seen largely as an “acqhire.” In December of 2011, the social networking giant bought location-based-turned-local-guide app Gowalla, again for its talent rather than its technology (it also shut that app down). And, in August of last year, the company quietly shut down Facebook Places, due to the fact that few were using it, and instead offered users the ability to add their locations to status updates — or photos.

Sound familiar?

That’s not to say it’s not easy to share your location when you upload a mobile photo to Facebook. The option is right there, in a “Places”-like pin, when you go to share a photo or status update. Update: It’s been pointed out to us that just last week it was revealed that around 200 million users are tagged by location on a monthly basis on Facebook.

Other aspects of the Facebook mobile experience, however, aren’t as seamless, while Instagram has clearly nailed the mobile-only social networking concept.

Mobile location sharing is still relatively nascent. Data shows that usage of location-based social apps on mobile devices grows only incrementally year over year, despite the hype surrounding mobile apps like Foursquare (which Instagram taps into for lists of venues), and the fact that many other apps are introducing layers of location-based “Look at where I am!” features.

And, of course, more recently we’ve seen the downside of those location-based services, with the much maligned Girls Around Me app, which triangulated data from Foursquare and Facebook to let creepers know where females were congregating.

But, for the companies behind these networks, and not the consumers, there’s little downside to knowing more about where you are, allowing them to serve up more local deals and more targeted ads.

It’s still to be determined how Instagram’s photo-sharing services will align with Facebook’s, even though Mark Zuckerberg has vowed, for now, to give Instagram room to breathe. Maybe the answer, though, isn’t in “active” check-ins. It might just be in your photos, already telling everyone where you are by sight and deed.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a video from the archives in which Instagram’s Systrom tells Digits host Simon Constable and me how he thinks Instagram helps those other social networks:


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google