Instagram's buyout has prompted the usual internet backlash that occurs whenever Facebook touches something, but do we really know what's happening or why? That's the question that Paul Ford and Matt Webb attempt to answer, in their separate but equally thought-provoking deconstructions of the acquisition and what it means for the web and for users. Ford says that Facebook is really just a big collection of products like chat, walls, feeds, and so forth, and that Instagram is just one more addition to the list — albeit one that Ford (arguably) calls "an artfully designed product that does one thing perfectly." But what is a "product" on the web? Ford argues that "on the web, 'product' has gone meta" — "an internet product is very often a thing that lets other people make things... and you can get 30 million people working for you, for free, if you do a good job of it." Webb takes the concept of meta product further, arguing that Instagram users are actually workers, since the service consists of user creations: people produce photos, comments, likes, and other valuables that are meaningful... in the Instagram universe.
" You can’t blame users for becoming hooting primates when a giant spaceship dumps a billion dollars out of its money hole."
The consequence of insular systems like Facebook and Instagram, Webb argues, is that a community and culture develops around the service, making them "closed economies" — Instagram's worker bees spend their time and effort in Instagram, as a factory worker would "have been housed in a factory home and spent their money in factory stores." So it doesn't seem surprising that some are speaking out against what Ford calls an obvious "sellout:" a deal that, when looking through Webb's lens, has given the workers a front row seat to Facebook and Instagram getting rich on their labor. Of course, none of the bellyaching over Facebook has stopped Instagram's flood of new hires — and given past revolts against the social giant, it doesn't seem likely that many people will opt to leave town this time around.