I closed my Instagram account last week.

The TOS shambles did have something to do with it, but it wasn’t the reason I left – it was more of a timely reminder, really, since despite liking it I’ve always found their service (and their fresh new web galleries) somewhat redundant.

Allow me to explain. You see, I mostly take two kinds of pictures on my phone that very seldom intersect:

  • Cute ephemera that pretty much always ends up on Twitter and/or Facebook depending on topic
  • Photos I want to share with family and close friends but which very seldom find their way online (and for which I have a private Photo Stream)

So my Instagram gallery actually had only around 100 photos, and my biggest gripe with it was that it was effectively useless – the photos weren’t good enough, I couldn’t add enough useful metadata for it to actually mean anything, and most of them ended up on a (reasonably well-tended) Facebook album anyway, where people who matter could comment on them.

And with the new photo functionality on Twitter and Facebook’s apps, I might as well just post straight to either. Too bad about the Instagram app itself though, because even though I’m not a fan of filters for real photography their user experience is still miles ahead of Twitter and Facebook’s own recent efforts (and those crummy filter names they came up with? how gauche).

But given the past couple of weeks, it’s obvious that everyone wants a piece of the burgeoning photo sharing “market”, even though 90% of the actual content will be indistinguishable from LOLcats fare.

Take Dropbox’s latest move, and even Google’s revamping of Snapseed – which I like a lot, to the point where it has become my go-to photo tweaking app1.

Being currently amidst the uncharted territories of Big Data, I have to wonder what kind of “social graph” they’ll be getting out of all this and how they intend to monetize their services (if at all – it’s likely to be just a retention strategy).

It’s the Galleries, Stupid!

But having an online gallery is interesting to me. Not being a latte-shooting hipster I tend to use a real camera for “proper” photography, and even though I’ve been neglecting my Canons2 of late I still take a fair amount of photos I don’t actually host anywhere.

I did maintain a fairly large gallery adjoining this site until I moved it to MobileMe (which was eventually nuked along with the rest of the service) and I’ve been cobbling together a more modern solution.

But until I find the time to finish and deploy it, I’ve been fooling around with alternatives ranging from the very user-friendly Facebook albums to the rather spiffy Google+ photo manager. They’re all nifty in their own ways, but they’re all part of something else – real photos get lost amidst all the noise, and the way they go about managing galleries is… odd3.

So the first thing I did after closing my Instagram account was re-open an account on Flickr.

I didn’t move any content across, and I know exactly why I did it – i.e., it wasn’t due to any unrealistic expectation regarding Yahoo!, but rather to their brand new iPhone app allowing me to do the sort of gallery management I can only dream of with other services (even if it’s still a little unpolished and lacking an iPad version).

And although it was fun to watch the hipster migration taking place, most of my friends and acquaintances who do real photography are already there in some capacity, so Flickr already seems less redundant than Instagram.

It was pure serendipity that they’ve been handing out temporary Pro accounts as a holiday treat.

  1. Using iPhoto on a phone is a pain. Even on the iPad it’s still a bit of a hassle, not to mention that it eats up storage like there’s no tomorrow, so this is just easier. ↩︎

  2. I’ve been using a 350D for a while and an S95 for a little over a year now, both of which I’m very happy with for the foreseeable future. ↩︎

  3. I actually like the Google+ album manager, but I find their URL schemas and sharing options completely unpalatable – not to mention that very few non-technical people I know actually use G+, so sharing anything there still feels like tossing it into a hole in the ground. ↩︎