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Why I’m Not Quitting Instagram

Yes, Instagram’s new terms are lame, but you can’t get something for nothing.
December 18, 2012

UPDATE: Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom has responded to criticism of the company’s policy changes in a blog post titled, “Thank You, and we’re listening”. He indicates that Instagram always intended to make money–it is a business, after all–but never planned to sell users’ photos without offering compensation, saying “This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing.” Systrom also writes that Instagram doesn’t plan to allow users’ photos to become ad content, and that wording permitting that will be removed from the company’s policy statements.

One side effect of the rise of the social Web can be user mutiny–not infrequently, when a service like Facebook or Twitter changes their terms of service, angry consumers start bitching and moaning, at times calling for boycotts. This week, it’s Instagram’s turn to feel the wrath of the pissed-off masses, as the twee Facebook-owned photo-sharing service just made some unpopular changes to its privacy policy and terms of service regarding how it utilizes user data.

Users are voicing discontent on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram itself. Some–including the pop artist Pink–are even shutting down their accounts in protest.

Indeed, Instagram’s revised terms are lame. Among the highlights: they give the service the ability to use the content you post to Instagram without compensating you, and allow advertisers to use your username or photos in ads or other paid content on Instagram, also without compensating you. Furthermore, Instgram informs users that it “may not always identify paid services, sponsored content, or commercial communications as such.” Instagram helpfully points out that users can still determine who sees their photos and if they’re posted to Facebook.

Supposedly, the changes to the the terms of service will protect users and help curtail spam, while the privacy policy changes are meant to ease its ability to share information with Facebook. The new rules go into effect January 16, so users have a few weeks to either get used to them or archive their shots (according to a TechCrunch report, demand for this has increased) and head elsewhere.

But here’s the thing: None of us are paying actual money to use Instagram. Surely you didn’t think you’d never have to pony up in some form. I’m an occasional user, and with the changes, I may be more wary of it, but I’m not going to go as far as shuttering my account and I don’t think you should, either. Instagram offers a great app–it’s good-looking, easy to use, and has an excellent, vibrant community attached to it. I’m hopeful that Instagram will be careful about how it wields the power afforded by these terms; it would behoove them to do so, unless they want a mass exodus on their hands.

If you do decide to say adios to Instagram right now, though, there are other good options for mobile photo-sharing (filters included), such as Flickr’s new iPhone app, which is probably seeing a nice uptick in traffic right about now.

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