Thursday, August 16, 2012

THIS is a THING?!?: Instagram?!?

This morning, I thought something profound to myself.  What I thought is this:

What the heck is Instagram?

That's what I thought, and maybe it's not as profound as something Shakespeare would have written, but who cares about what Shakespeare wrote?  It's nearly incomprehensible.  Aside from inventing the knock knock joke, Shakespeare's contribution to Western Society has been to create a bunch of plays nobody wants to read.

Shakespeare really did create the Knock-Knock joke, at least according to some guy I heard on a podcast and Wikipedia, both of those being equally reliable sources for facts like "Shakespeare really did create the Knock-Knock joke."

Here's what Wikipedia says about that fact:

In Shakespeare's play Macbeth a comic relief character delivers a 20 line monologue and satire that makes reference to events of that time. It follows the pattern of "knock knock who's there?" but it is done entirely by the character and knocks from off stage. The character is a hung over porter (in most performances drunk, but in the original he was hung over) who pretends he is the porter to the gates of hell welcoming sinners of different professions: 

Knock, knock, knock! Who's there, i' th' name of Beelzebub? Here's a farmer that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty. Come in time, have napkins enough about you, here you'll sweat for 't. 

 That, Wikipedia says, is "a joke referring to a price drop in crops, as well as a joke about the heat in hell."

HA! O', the ribald int'rplay of words we wreak/when first we hear the porter speak.

(Anyone can write Shakespeareanish.)

There are other knock-knock jokes told by that same witty (?) porter, including:

Knock, knock! Who's there, in th' other devil's name? Faith, here's an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator. 
 Which, Wikipedia says, "is believed to be a reference to a trial of the Jesuits who were charged with equivocation speaking unclearly or speaking with double meaning."


 Knock, knock, knock! Who's there? Faith, here's an English tailor come hither for stealing out of a French hose. Come in, tailor. Here you may roast your goose. 

 Which is a joke in which "the tailor is accused of stealing cloth while making breeches," and thus "is a joke about a fashion trend in Shakespearian times, [and] also a pun for roasting the tailor's iron with the heat of hell."

So I've made my point, in that none of those are funny.  ON TO TODAY'S THING:

What THIS THING is, in a nutshell: The reason I was asking myself that high-minded philosophical question is that all I hear about these days is Instagram, and I have ...

...oh, man, I just realized that I started THIS THING without the usual introduction by January Jones, so let me remedy that:

January Jones being the (un)official hostess of THIS is a THING?!?.

Anyway, I was going to check my email this morning, and I noticed, on Yahoo!, that one of the cover stories was "Rich Kids of Instagram', which is apparently a story of rich kids who are on Instagram, and left me befuddled, because while I know what rich kids are (the kids I hated in high school/now the people I hate in real life), I don't know what Instagram is.

I've heard a lot about Instagram, in the past... period of time? I want to say months, but maybe it's been only weeks?  I don't know.  All I know is one day, I didn't even know Instagram was a word, and now every sentence I read has the word instagram in it.

So I have therefore set out on a fact-finding mission, and to do that, I do what everyone does when they want to know something, including scientists:  I googled it.

And got to a site that seemed helpful, called

That site said about Instagram that:

It’s a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos with friends and family. Snap a picture, choose a filter to transform its look and feel, then post to Instagram. Share to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr too – it's as easy as pie. It's photo sharing, reinvented. Oh yeah, did we mention it’s free? 
 After reading that, I thought:

Wait, what?

It's photo sharing, reinvented?

I'm confused.

Let me go back to basics.

I have a cell phone.

It has a camera.

Using that cell phone, I can take pictures and with a few clicks, I can message those pictures to anyone whose cell number I know. I can email them.  I can post them to Twitter.  I can post them to any blog I want.  I can... what's the word I'm looking for?  Oh, yeah:

I can share them.

So I don't get it.

But perhaps I am missing the point.  Perhaps I am missing out on the reinvented part: maybe I'm photo sharing the way the dinosaurs photo-shared, and I could be, I don't know, instantly beaming my photos into the minds of everyone within a 5-mile radius, or something.

So I investigated-er, by googling what makes instagram so great.  Which brings us to

When did THIS THING start?

  Officially, apparently, Instagram started in October, 2010, getting $500,000 in funding from a venture capitalist, and it was... a photo-sharing site that soon hit on the revolutionary idea of using hashtags to tag photos, but not just any old hashtags:  Instagram wanted you to be specific

#don'ttellSweetieaboutthispost, please
 With that, in this country of ours that can't possibly provide any funding for food stamps, the floodgates opened and investors poured $7,000,000 into the company, which by Wall Street Math made the company worth $25,000,000.

This past April -- just four months ago, as I write this, Instagram jumped on the Android platform and its app was downloaded 1,000,000 times in one day, causing venture capitalists...

... I want you to remember that right now our two major political parties are fielding two candidates who are competing to see who can cut the most funding from our social safety net when I say this...

...causing venture capitalists to give Instagram $50,000,000

REALITY CHECK TIME:  This app lets you take photos, and digitally alter them.


Wall Street Mathematicians, noting that Instagram was giving away its product for free and that doing so caused people to give Instagram $50,000,000 instantly valued the company at $500,000,000.

THAT, in turn caused Facebook, which was at the time was preparing to bilk the general public out of billions in its own IPO, to decide that simply burning money was too inefficient and in a Brewster's Billions turn of events, Facebook tried to buy Instagram for the not-at-all real price of $1,000,000,000.

I couldn't find one with the exact number,
but you get the point.

The real price being $300,000,000 plus 23,000,000 shares of stock in Facebook. 

(The value of those latter shares of stock has dropped by nearly 1/3, to only $487,000,000, prompting Facebook to try to issue stock using a stock loophole under California law.)(Something Facebook has to do because it wants to avoid scrutiny of its own IPO, but which will have the side effect of saving Facebook "hundreds of thousands of dollars" of SEC fees to register the stock.)

(Facebook hasn't completed the sale yet; the reason the sale is being held up is because the federal government wants to ensure that the purchase doesn't hurt competition in social networking.)

(There is competition in social networking? Do you know anyone who uses Google+?  I'm not on Facebook because I don't have any strong desire to stalk girls from my high school, have an affair, or play that Sheep Poke game, those being the only things Facebook is good for, but I am aware that everyone else in the world is on Facebook, having affairs, etc., and that they are on no other social networks.)

(Imagine Facebook as a person.  Imagine MySpace as a person.  Imagine them meeting in a bar themselves, 10 years from now, both commiserating about how they usedtabe someone.)

When Did THIS THING officially pass into pop culture?

Apparently, almost immediately, judging by that history, but I would say the official entry into pop culture came either when 1,000,000 people downloaded it in a day (some say 12 hours) or when Facebook tried to buy it -- which is about the same time, so it's not really worth parsing out.

The real question is why did it pass into pop culture, and so quickly? 

I mean, you get why people notice SOME things, right?

To determine why Instagram burst onto the scene, I did some more research, and came across this:

and realized that my Google search knows me better than I know myself.  I also came across an article from the New York Times titled "The Naked Appeal Of Instagram," which congratulated Facebook on acquiring the company, and noted, without any apparent sense of irony, that:

Twitter is driven by 140-character-long bursts and Instagram principally relies on a single image. Both companies are white-hot and neither has a meaningful business model in part because they don’t have to — who needs revenues when you can attract these kinds of valuations? But the other reason? It’s really, really hard to come up with a way to make money. Apps are utilities built for the consumer with very little accommodation for advertisers.
Congratulations, Facebook!  Just before going public, you blew a billion dollars on a company that has no potential revenue stream.

At all.

But I wasn't done researching:

For example, I am currently researching the question "What is this all about?"
 and so I read "3 Things That Make Instagram So Cool."

Those three things being:
1. It is easy to share and socially integrate your photos using Instagram,
2.  All the pictures are square, which makes it easy to use. (REALLY! THAT IS REALLY WHAT THE ARTICLE SAID!) and
3.  "Instagram is for those who want to feel like they’re professional photographers for fun."

 By which I take it that prior to Instagram, people were constantly confused by the wildly varying shapes their photos came in, and that confusion made it impossible to share photos, and so nobody could pretend to be a professional photographer.

Is This Thing Still Going On?  Judging by the Yahoo! article that caused me to finally try to figure out what Instagram was all about, yes, and rich kids are doing it.  But if you google Is Instagram still a thing you will find a Lifehacker article titled "Don't Bother With Instagram, Here Are Five Better Alternatives For Android."

That Times article that I quoted before noted that young people change media platforms, on average, nearly every 2 minutes.  If you watch TV with your smartphone or Kindle or Ipad handy and check Twitter during the commercials, you're doing what the young folks do.

The Times also noted that the average number of times a photo is looked at online is between zero and one.  So everyone's taking photos and nobody's looking:

We have reached the point in the world where we are all artists and the art museums are empty. 

But we allowed Facebook to spend $1,000,000,000 hypthetical dollars to point that out to us.

Can you sum up Instagram for people who skimmed this post and just want a quick takeaway?


PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

It's funny that a decade after the dot-com bubble supposedly burst no one still has any idea how to value these tech companies. The sad part is we need these Wall Street losers to keep funding companies like Facebook and Instagram because if they finally wise up and realize none of these ever can make any real money, then how will technology ever evolve?

I mean the way all these things like Facebook, YouTube, Napster got started was some nerds were fucking around with some code and came up with some little program and then gradually by word-of-mouth and such more people catch on, but still without all that money coming in those things would never be able to really flourish because those nerds who invented it would have to get real jobs somewhere else. The only choice then would be to open-source everything so that more nerds can goof around with the code in their spare time. Maybe that would allow for more innovation or maybe it would lead to disaster.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

LOL You read the same article I did on receipt porn on instagram. Children of the 1% are behaving badly I suppose. I wish I was one of them.

Andrew Leon said...

Um... I never heard of instagram before you brought it up. I don't know how I feel about that.

I think I'm so far out of the loop, I don't even know where the loop is. Even if I am on FB. Which I pretty much only use to post links to blog to.

PT Dilloway, Superhero Author said...

BTW, you should do one of these on Tumblr. Offutt says it's only good for porn. I think it's pretty worthless myself.

Liz said...

Yeah, I don't get the whole Instagram thing either. And I've been aware of it for some time.

Those filters make the pics look... Well, most of the time, I think the pics look faded. Not good. And it's so easy to share photos anyway.

Of course, there's also Pinterest which makes no sense either, but is still addicting.

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