Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 5:37 pm.

Why Facebook Needs Two Photo Apps

Facebook Camera app vennFacebook released Camera today, an iPhone app that lets you take photos, add filters to them, and share them on Facebook.

Hey, wait a second. Isn’t that what Instagram does, which Facebook just smartly agreed to acquire for $1+ billion?

Yes and no.

To us geeks who follow everything that’s going on in the tech industry, it might initially seem a little odd that Facebook would have, want, or need two camera apps. (Although, technically, Facebook doesn’t own Instagram yet. That deal isn’t closed, and might not be for a while.)

But it actually makes sense.

  • Facebook Camera is for creating photos, sharing them on Facebook, and seeing your Facebook friends’ photos.
  • Instagram is for creating photos, sharing them on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare, via email, etc., and seeing your Instagram friends’ photos.

So yes, there’s some overlap. But not much, actually.

The majority of my Facebook friends don’t use Instagram, and I’m not Facebook friends with the majority of the people I follow on Instagram. Heck, I don’t know many of the people I follow on Instagram. And like most normal people, I don’t accept Facebook friend requests from people I’m not actually friends with. (Unlike many people who work in tech.) Facebook is my Path, you might say.

Bigger picture, Facebook didn’t buy Instagram because Mark Zuckerberg thought it was the perfect mobile photo app or the only one that Facebook needed. Facebook bought Instagram because it’s doing something new and different that’s special; because it represented the biggest existing threat to Facebook; and because it’s building an interesting new social network focused around photography. And Facebook wanted to own it.

Meanwhile, photos are already absurdly important to Facebook today — more than 300 million uploaded per day, vs. 5+ million per day for Instagram — so it makes sense to publish a Facebook camera app. And to eventually own Instagram.

Similar but different.

Related: Why Facebook’s $1 Billion Instagram Deal Is Brilliant