Instagram's proposed change to its terms and conditions has outraged users, with some vowing to quit the service. Meanwhile, rival photosharing services have taken the chance to reiterate their stance on user privacy.
On Tuesday, Instagram posted its new terms of service which will be enforced on Jan. 16, 2013. The changes were interpreted as a right for the company to use user photos in ads or sublicense them to third parties:
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.
Instagram clarifies stand
Following the backlash, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom issued a clarification on Wednesday. He acknowledged the proposed terms were "confusing" and could be misinterpreted as the company having an intention to sell user generated content without compensation or use them for advertisements.
"We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear", Systrom said in the blog post.
Systrom explained that the updated terms of service was to let users know that the company planned to introduce promoted content features for users and brands as part of its monetization plan. This is similar to Facebook's paid post featurewhich displays a post to a wider audience.
When the news first broke about Instagram's change to its terms of service, some users were against the alterations and threatened to delete their account while others were unconcerned and would still use the service.
Negative response to new terms
James Teo, an Instagram user, was among those who told ZDNet they did not welcome the company's announcement. "I will delete my account on Jan. 15 if the decision is not reversed," he said.
He added that if Instagram's parent company Facebook planned to implement similar policies, he would also stop posting pictures there as well.
However, Twitter user smithankyou felt otherwise. He said the changes did not matter to him as his photos were of low-resolution and filtered, which might not bring in much money should Instagram sell them.
Vanessa Chew, senior client executive at a public relations agency, had similar sentiments but noted that her friends were in different camps. "I know of friends who are budding photographers who think this is a good opportunity for them to possibly earn money and gain greater exposure by using Instagram. There are also some friends who are fulltime professional photographers that are really annoyed by this idea," she said.
For Chew, Instagram's monetization plans were not a surprise. "It's expected because they got bought over by Facebook and it was either going to be ads or some other form of monetization. Chew's agency works for Facebook but she is not involved in the Facebook account.
Instagram, more than just photo filters
For many Instagram users, the service has gone beyond a photo-filtering platform to become a social network of its own, making it difficult for them to break away.
Singapore-based banker Zann Tan said she was not particularly interested in other photo-filter apps. "I've grown used to how Instagram works and I like it so I would continue using it," she said.
Chew added that she also uses photo-editing app, MeiTuXiuXiu, which functions better than Instagram. "But I don't think I'll proactively switch to that because Instagram is much more user-friendly," she said.
Twitter user smithankyou said he uses Instagram for its social function, not just for photo editing. He said he likes surfing on Instagram not just to look at his friend's photos but also to look at photos using the tag function.
Rival social networks: Users own uploaded content
When approached by ZDNet Asia, Yahoo did not comment directly on how it planned to lure Instagram users to its own photosharing service, Flickr.
Instead the company said in a statement it was seeing strong interest in its recently enhanced Flickr for its iPhone app launched last Wednesday.
Yahoo reiterated its stand respecting user privacy, referring to a 2011 Flickr blog post which said neither the company nor Flickr owned the uploaded photos.
Arthur Chaiyos, board of directors of Thailand-based photo-sharing app Molome, pointed out user satisfaction was dependent on both how much they liked and trust the service.
In response to queries on how its monetization plans, Chaiyos noted the company had a few changes lined up but stressed that it would have the process in place to get user consent with respect to privacy.
Professional social network, LinkedIn, told ZDNet Asia that the content which users or companies promote were their own. "LinkedIn has a diversified business model with revenues coming from talent solutions, marketing solutions and premium subscriptions," the spokesperson said.
"Companies can pay for marketing solutions that allow them to target certain categories of members, or to acquire followers, but the content they promote is their own," she added.
In LinkedIn's 2012 third quarter financial statement, the company noted that talent solution represented 55 percent of its revenue while marketing solutions was 25 percent of revenue and premium subscriptions was 20 percent of its revenue.