Facebook camera, Facebook phone, Facebook browser
All eyes are on Facebook for “what next” since it’s initial IPO and the aftermath. A lot of the feedback has been around Facebooks need for a strong mobile strategy and it seems like the internet giant is now taking this very seriously with a set of initiatives which seem to tackle the mobile space head-on.
Firstly, Facebook has launched it’s own app for a Camera just months after announcing it would acquire Instagram. Comparisons and conspiracy theories have already started making rounds.
First, what are Facebook Camera’s features?
The social network’s new mobile photo-sharing app lets users take photos and upload them to Facebook, just like in the current mobile app. The two main differences are the addition of filters and batch uploads.
The photos also seem to upload faster than when using Facebook’s mobile app. Once photos are uploaded they automatically go into the mobile uploads folder on your profile, just as they would if uploaded through the Facebook app. People and locations can also be tagged in the app before they are uploaded.
This does raise the question on what exactly is happening with Instagram? Instagram is growing from strength to strength since April, and the key thing to remember is that Instagram works as a stand-alone photo-sharing Social Network. I’ve come across people recently who use Instagram more than they use Facebook itself. The evolution of #hashtags within Instagram is an interesting one, and like Twitter, the simplest of #hashtags now has a few hundred plus photos next to them, and in some cases, going into the millions.
So is Facebook eventually going to phase out Instagram?
As this article states: “Considering Facebook’s recent Instagram acquisition, the launch of Facebook Camera seems kind of strange — but really, this kind of thing happens a lot. The Facebook Camera team, composed of people from acqui-hired Gowalla and MadeBySofa, as well as people from Facebook’s Photos team. They’ve been working on the app for months (perhaps even a year?), and Mark Zuckerberg reportedly kept his desire to purchase Instagram close to the vest – as if he almost impulse-bought it. Had the Instagram deal never occurred, Facebook Camera wouldn’t really be much of an Instagram competitor anyway, lacking any mobile-only social circles, hashtagged sharing around specific topics, tilt-shift, and interesting filters, for that matter. “Enhancing the Facebook photos experience on mobile is long overdue,” Facebook’s Derick Mains told me. “We really had to step up our game, and we’re committed to building Instagram independently.” Perhaps Facebook didn’t think its mobile apps were coming along quickly enough, or perhaps it just saw Instagram as too formidable a competitor to let live. Either way, Facebook will soon own two mobile photo apps that let you apply filters to photos and share them with friends.”
It might initially seem a little odd that Facebook would have, want, or need two camera apps. (Although, technically, Facebook doesn’t own Instagram yet. That deal isn’t closed, and might not be for a while.)
But it actually makes sense.
- Facebook Camera is for creating photos, sharing them on Facebook, and seeing your Facebook friends’ photos.
- Instagram is for creating photos, sharing them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare, via email, etc., and seeing your Instagram friends’ photos.
So yes, there’s some overlap. But not much, actually.
The majority of my Facebook friends don’t use Instagram, and I’m not Facebook friends with the majority of the people I follow on Instagram. Heck, I don’t know many of the people I follow on Instagram. And like most normal people, I don’t accept Facebook friend requests from people I’m not actually friends with. (Unlike many people who work in tech.) Facebook is my Path, you might say.
Bigger picture, Facebook didn’t buy Instagram because Mark Zuckerberg thought it was the perfect mobile photo app or the only one that Facebook needed. Facebook bought Instagram because it’s doing something new and different that’s special; because it represented the biggest existing threat to Facebook; and because it’s building an interesting new social network focused around photography. And Facebook wanted to own it.
In short-it seems like both Facebooks Camera app and Instagram will co-exist in harmony in the interim, though one can sense that this is part of a larger mobile strategy which is essentially what Facebook really needed. As Brian Solis points out: “As of May 2012, time spent on Facebook via mobile devices exceeds that of traditional desktops. Facebook does not monetize mobile and with this stunning shift in Facebook engagement, the time to do so, was well, yesterday. Post IPO, Facebook must convey its vision and supporting business models for a single view, but dual platform community.
You can see a neat review of both Facebooks new camera app VS Instagram here
This brings me to the next topic in this space, which is the Facebook phone. Rumours of a Facebook powered smartphone device have been doing the rounds for a while, and this kind of a move puts Facebook, in some sense, in direct competition with Google and the Android platform. As this article states: “According to Bilton, a number of anonymous sources – including Facebook employees, engineers who have been the target of Facebook recruiting efforts, and other sources with alleged knowledge of Facebook’s secret inner workings – maintain that Facebook’s working to build its own smartphone.
This would be the company’s third attempt at bringing a living, breathing smartphone into its core business: Initial rumors in 2010 put smartphones on Facebook’s map, but the company allegedly veered away from mobile development after realizing just how difficult it is to build mobile hardware.
Rumors resurfaced in late 2011 that Facebook was planning to team up with HTC to build a Facebook-centric device, code-named “Buffy.” According to an April report by AllThingsD’s Ina Fried, the device is allegedly still in the works: Facebook’s doing the mobile platform on top of an Android base and HTC’s allegedly taking care of the hardware.
Facebook representatives didn’t confirm or deny the rumors when asked by Bilton this past Friday.”
While launching individual apps for separate functions of Facebook for a heightened, faster and quicker experience makes sense, a Facebook powered phone, which is a very intuitive and user-friendly interface would in the long-run solve the issues of having a lot of separate apps and provide an integrated solution. However the Smartphone market is an extremely busy one with a lot of choices, and to make a serious dent in this space, Facebook will need one very nifty and groovy device.
According to this article: “Those briefed on the plans told Bilton that the company has already hired more than six “former Apple software and hardware engineers who worked on the iPhone, and one who worked on the iPad.”.
The report further states: “Now, the company has been going deeper into the process, by expanding the group working on “Buffy”, and exploring other smartphone projects too, creating a team of seasoned hardware engineers who have built the devices before.
One engineer who formerly worked at Apple and worked on the iPhone said he met with Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, who then peppered him with questions about the inner workings of smartphones. It did not sound like idle intellectual curiosity, the engineer said; Mr. Zuckerberg asked about intricate details, including the types of chips used, he said. Another former Apple hardware engineer was recruited by a Facebook executive and was told about the company’s hardware explorations.”
And lastly, Facebook is rumored to be looking into buying the Opera browser from Norwegian company Opera Software. This again, is a significant move. The purchase of Opera would give Facebook a way to quickly create a dedicated browser customized for the social networking giant and its estimated 900 million active monthly users.
It would also put Facebook in the middle of a browser battle with Microsoft (Internet Explorer), Mozilla (Firefox), Google (Chrome) and Apple (Safari). Some of those companies — like Microsoft — have partnered with Facebook, while others — such as Google — compete in the social networking space.
It also has some interesting ties to the Facebook phone rumors. Hear me out: I know that these rumors cannot be killed and that Mark Zuckerberg even once said, “Um. No,” to the speculation his company would build a phone. However, there’s a reason the mythical Facebook-meets-phone idea just won’t die and it’s because there’s got to be a sliver of truth there. It’s seems entirely plausible that Facebook will team up with a manufacturer and create its own Facebook OS (built on top of Android, perhaps). And if that were the case, then Facebook would want its own custom, proprietary browser app to go along with it.
With over 210M users worldwide, and given the need for a push in the mobile space, the Instagram+Facebook Camera app, a Facebook phone and the purchase of a new browser are three pretty powerful initiatives within the mobile space. I also feel there is a need to redo the entire app from a tablet perspective as the user-experience does change here from a smartphone to a smart tablet device.
What do you think of these three initiatives?
Prashant Harish Hari