The fall out from Instagram’s changes to its Terms of Service (ToS) at the end of last year has proved far more calamitous for the Facebook-owned Photo app than first imagined. Instagram appears to have lost half of its active users in a month, according to new data.
The numbers of active users seem to have fallen from 40 million to 17 million, according to App traffic monitoring firm AppStats. That seems very high and I wonder if some of these people will come back.
Instagram remains very appealing in terms of the kind of people who are on it and how it is also starting to acquire a news element to it as we saw recently with this story: “How news can break on Instagram as John Terry reveals Lampard is leaving Chelsea”.
It does also say that Instagram is continuing to acquire new users as well, as people acquire the right kind of smartphone (you still can’t get Instagram on a Blackberry).
The fallout, however, shows how risky it can be for social media firms to tinker with copyright. People really do care about this kind of stuff and particularly when the copyright is their own. With pictures, and social media we personally create, that is a huge issue and needs to be handled very carefully.
For those who didn’t read too much about Instagram’s proposed changes to its Terms of Service, which go into effect this week. Today it sent users this email:
“You can read our blog post that highlights some of the key updates. And remember, these updates don’t change the fact that you own your photos that you post on Instagram, and our privacy controls work just as they did before.”
Initially when Instagram announced the changes it gave itself licensing rights to sell to third parties any photographs posted on the app, particularly to its parent company Facebook. It changed that, but one passage in particular that upset many users:
“Instagram does not claim ownership of any content that you post on or through the service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the content that you post on or through the service.”
“This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used,” Instagram wrote in a blog post.
However, there was also another reason for this if you read down into its ToS:
“Some or all of the srvice may be supported by advertising revenue,” Instagram writes. “To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”
That’s the change from putting ads alongside your pics to using your pics as ads — without a cent to the photographer and owner of the content.
It was that change to the ToS that has caused this huge drop. Even its efforts to assuage users was too little too late. It should have known instinctively what the problems would be.