Bits & Bytes: Instagram's next steps crucial as users react to policy change
BY Robert Evatt
Sunday, December 23, 2012
12/23/12 at 3:37 AM
With just over a week to go, I think it's safe to award Instagram the top prize of the year for how to instantly enrage customers.
You've probably bumped into people ticked off that the photo-sharing social network has suddenly decided to sell users' photos to any advertiser without permission or compensation. This is the nightmare scenario for those who fret about companies deciding to make a profit off users' personal information.
Considering every few months people panic over false news that Facebook has decided to claim ownership of their soul in the fine print of its terms of service, it might seem this is just another overreaction.
That's what Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom was likely counting on when he posted that the company won't sell photos, and uproar was an overreaction due to confusing wording.
Was it really? Here's the update to the Instagram terms and service that set people off:
"Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you."
The only thing confusing about that paragraph is how it's supposed to be confusing.
Many businesses put scary-sounding things in their terms and services that they don't actually implement, and this could be one of them.
But I can't help but remember that just two weeks ago Instagram disabled full integration with Twitter, and Systrom said the move was to shift users to its own site. Even the clarification post had plenty of mention of advertisers.
It's clear Instagram is in the middle of the shift all successful Internet services must undertake - somehow transform from a funky, free-spirited new expression to a business that actually makes money. Most of us are annoyed by advertisers, but they've become a necessary evil on the Web.
But suggesting that your photos could be bought by advertisers is beyond the pale. My suspicion is that the company was brainstorming new sources of revenue and forgot that its users are human beings.
Right now all we have are words. How the company acts next is critical. Will Instagram put revenue sources in place that don't involve user pictures, or will it try to implement some form of picture sales anyway?
Systrom needs to remember MySpace. Just because an Internet company is on top of the world one moment is no guarantee it won't be abandoned the next.
Facebook set to launch video auto-play ads
Speaking of things that annoy social network users, Ad Age reported Facebook will soon roll out video ads.
These aren't going to be ads that will quietly sit in a corner until you decide to click on them. They'll auto-play and expand over the news feed.
Just think - you could soon try to sneak onto Facebook at work to see photos of, say, your best friend's new baby and then get a commercial blasting out for all your co-workers to hear.
I think I'm going to keep my computer turned off during the Christmas break.
App of the week: Writer Rumble (iOS)
Plenty of apps challenge you to spell words on a grid. But only Writer Rumble has you do so as a major literary character duking it out with other major literary characters.
Think Edgar Allan Poe fighting Homer, or the brothers Grimm battling Jane Austen.
Beyond the visual flourishes, this is a fine word game. An online component allows you to battle other players, and each character has special abilities to boost the effectiveness of spelled words.
If you'd rather go solo, a survival mode has you quickly spelling out words for as long as you can.
Gamefly, 99 cents
Suggest an app for App of the Week at robertevatt@ tulsaworld.com
Original Print Headline: Instagram's next steps critical in snafu
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A change in Instagram's terms of service allowing it to sell user photos enraged many customers. Tulsa World photo illustration