People love photos. They always have. It’s the crappy snapshot of you and your sister at 3 and 5 playing on the new swing set in the backyard that is your favorite. It’s not the technical quality of that photo that makes it special. It’s the emotional connection. The brilliance of Instagram isn’t just about 30M users taking photos. It’s the emotional connections they are making. Instagram figured out that people like their photos, they like to share them, and they like them to be better photos. So they made it very easy to take a photo, crop it and try a filter or two before sharing it — all from your phone in a few seconds. Instant emotional connection. Purchasing Instagram is a signal that Facebook understands that Instagram has something that they need.
Facebook is a dominant force in the way people connect on the Internet and have made it possible for millions of people to share their thoughts and lives. But Facebook’s position at the top is likely only temporary. Like Microsoft and AOL they will probably be around for many years, but they won’t be the juggernaut that they are now. Facebook and Google both share this problem — both struggle to “get” emotional connection.
Apple gets emotional connection. They don’t know how to do web-based services, or at least somehow don’t put the care into them that they do into their devices, so they haven’t cracked the “Social Web” nut. But their computers and iOS devices have an amazing emotional connection. 6 years ago, who would have said that they LOVE their cell phone? How many non-nerds would have said that they LOVE their laptop? Who but a nerd would have even used a tablet before Apple invented iPad?
I think Mark Zuckerberg understands all this. Maybe not — maybe he just saw 30 million users and crazy growth and an engaged community and said “that should be part of Facebook.” But I think it more likely that he said, “These people really get this emotional connection stuff, and we need more of that.”