If you’re thinking, “Oh great, a technology post. I thought this guy had given up writing technology posts on here,” just bear with me. This has a lot more relevance to our digital lives today than a simple photo service.
This week Instagram, recently purchased by Facebook, updated their terms of service. Web services do this all the time and oftentimes they go unnoticed, but Instagram’s elicited some nasty feedback from the general public. Most of the outcry hinged on this particular phrase:
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.
Obviously it’s within Instagram’s legal rights to do this. They gave users a month’s advance notice of the changes and, after all, we’re creating and storing loads of pictures on their web service for free. But people, myself included, protested this massive shift in how Instagram viewed its user’s content and some of us deleted our accounts. Instagram got the message and is reverting back to its previous terms, so users need fear not. For now. This will surely happen again, and on other services as well. Why?
Because these web services have to pay for the massive amount of traffic and storage they are producing.
Keep in mind that users of sites like Instagram and Pinterest are uploading content to those sites. They pay for storage on services like Amazon’s A3. I have no real clue as to how much they are paying as they don’t release the amount of data they are using, but it is surely in the tens of thousdands of dollars each month. After the startup venture capital funding runs out, they have to generate cash somehow, and you can only be bought for one billion dollars every so often.
So they monetize. And advertising is the name of the game. Twitter introduced promoted Tweets. Facebook has all sorts of advertising shenanigans going on, from promoted posts to suggested likes to probably other things I don’t even know about yet.
We create things, we use services to share them, and these services use our stuff to generate money. In a way, we’re just part of the machine. It’s part of the new digital world we live in.
And there is nothing we can do about it except stop using these services. At least, that’s my conclusion. What do you think?