Thursday 18 January 2018

Instagram learns hard way it is not indispensable

A selection of photos on Instagram
A selection of photos on Instagram

STEVE Jobs famously hated focus groups, believing that he knew what people wanted before they even realised it.

When it came to the iPad in particular, experts lined up to tell him there wasn't a market for tablet computers.

Two years and almost 100 million sales later, it's fair to say he was right.

Sometimes, however, a company needs to listen to its customers. The Instagram debacle this week has been a prime example of that.

When the popular photo-sharing site changed its privacy policy on Monday, the web exploded with indignation that the company wanted to sell users' photos to third parties without their express consent, raising fears of pictures of someone's family, including young children, being used in ads without their knowledge.

The outcry has been enormous: many users have deleted their accounts in protest, and now the company is desperately rolling back on its plan, telling users it "never intended" to sell their picture for ads.

Instagram has discovered that, big as it is, it is not an indispensable tool for most people. Photo-sharing apps are legion at this stage.

Facebook, which bought Instagram earlier this year, can get away with stunts like this because there is no real alternative for keeping in touch with friends online. Instagram cannot.

Steve Jobs hated focus groups, but he also knew when to cut his losses and kill a product (the G4 Cube, anyone?). Instagram is learning this lesson in the harshest possible way.

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