Mike Isaac

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Instagram to App Developers: Hands Off Our Brand, Y’All

Instagram_cropSometimes you gotta throw a few elbows to stay king of the hill.

Facebook knows this more than anyone. And now Instagram is taking cues from its parent company.

The preeminent photo-sharing network updated its brand-enforcement guidelines on Monday evening, essentially cracking down on apps that use part of the Instagram nomenclature — namely “insta” or “gram” — in their branding. As TechCrunch first noted, the company has started enforcing 48-hour notices to apps using the Instagram API that violate Instagram’s updated ToS. (That means bad news for upstart apps like Luxogram or Instadrop.)

Very little color on this from an Instagram spokesperson, who responded to my inquiry with a canned quote:

“All uses of the Instagram brand need to be in accordance with our branding guidelines. (For reference, you can find our branding guidelines here.)”

Part of this move is reasonable enough. Instagram is also sending warnings to services that look to be ripping off its design branding (the iconic multicolored imagery, in particular), or anything that implies the third-party app is partnered with Instagram.

But after hearing of Instagram’s move, I can’t help but think of New York’s Dominique Ansel Bakery, makers of the popular fad snack, the cronut (half croissant, half donut). Ansel made the decision to trademark the word cronut, after a string of knockoffs sprang up in the wake of the pastry’s popularity. It’s a defensive move that makes him look slightly petty.

My advice to both Instagram and Dominique Ansel: Get over it. Some may be fooled by lookalikes, but most will come for the real thing.


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik