Would Instagram be as successful if Twitter had bought it?

Posted over 2 years ago

One of the more heated M&A deals of the past few years was that of Instagram by Facebook. Twitter was in a fight to acquire them, and it got a little nasty after they were jilted at the altar after making (what was argued) a formal offer.

I wrote a piece arguing that it wasn’t worth the $1bn price tag (and whilst it’s yet to justify it in pure revenue terms yet, I’ll concede I called it wrong) nearly two years ago, but the service has been growing massively since then, all whilst maintaining a separate identity to its new mothership.

It’s thought to be posting impressive engagement and submission numbers that back up recent reports that it’s winning the hearts and minds of the younger demographic over the microblogging service.

But. Things could have been very different. If Twitter had succeeded in acquiring the photo-sharing startup, would Instagram be in the position it is now? Could they have left it to grow organically as its own standalone product rather than rolling them together?

Facebook has multiple strands of product and are currently debundling them as fast as they can, whereas Twitter (with the exception of Vine) has consolidated much of their ecosystem into their website and dedicated app offerings. Could they, as a still-revenue-poor startup at the time, have run two large, separate, social networks?

Would Instagram as a product have had to be sacrificed if it were brought into the Twitter fold?
I don’t know if they would have killed it off, but contrary to a lot of the media reportage at the time (and excluding the minor “Terms of Service” blip early last year), Facebook has nurtured them. Potentially more than Twitter could have.

Drop me an @mention if you think I’m wrong (or right!)

by Steve Farnworth

Steve Farnworth is a petrolhead, coffee drinker, amateur chocolatier, web developer and digital marketer from England, UK.

Find Steve on Twitter and Google Plus

© 2017