Apple's update to its iCloud service sounds a lot like Instagram. The upgrade will come as part of an iCloud overhaul, which might be announced at Apple's June 11 developer's conference, say sources talking with The Wall Street Journal's Jessica Vascellaro. Specifically, the refresh will expand Photo Stream -- the photo syncing part of the iCloud service -- to include sharing, commenting and even videos. As of now, Photo Stream just allows for storing of personal photos. From the sounds of it, this overhaul would put Apple in the social networking space.
Since Facebook bought Instagram, there has been a lot of talk about the next Instagram. That's partly just a way to talk about this coming social media bubble: which small, money-less app will get bought up for $1 billion next? But it's also because when Facebook bought up the photo-sharing app, Instagramers feared -- and still do -- Facebook would change the app, ruining the intimate (and exclusive) experience with all of its grubby little users. (A bit elitist, right?) We've discussed various tricked-out photo and video sharing apps hitting the market now, but this Apple experiment might provide just the right alternative to Instagram, in both exclusivity and utility.
The upgrade, as detailed by Vascellaro, doesn't include the hip photo filters that Instagram provides. But, otherwise, it sounds like an Instagram copycat. iPhone and iPad users can share photos with each other via the cloud. Friends can comment on friends' uploads. It also sounds like the iCloud version will include video uploads, something Instagram does not have that many other competitors have tried capitalizing on. But beyond the basic idea, which many, many apps have adopted, iCloud only allows data sync of photos via certain, Apple-made devices. iCloud is available through web browsers, but does not allow for the photo sharing part. It's this exclusivity that might entice former Instagram snobs -- they can cultivate that intimate community they loved so much.
If Apple's iCloud redux really does attract the Instagram set, a group Facebook sought for very strategic reasons, it will not bode well for Facebook, which will have just IPO-ed. The social network has admitted mobile is a weakness -- one reason it bought Instagram in the first place. Mobile use is on the rise and Apple, as a maker of all things mobile, already has a advantage there. Plus, Facebook's future relies on user data, like photos, as The New York Times's Somini Sengupta explains. "They need to make the data work more," David Eastman, worldwide digital director for the advertising agency JWT, told Sengupta. "They need to provide deeper data. Right now the value of Facebook advertising is largely unknown." Photos are a big part of that data. If users start taking that data elsewhere, say, to Apple, Facebook's got no growth. Not a pretty picture, no matter what filter you put on it.