Facebook buys Instagram: It's not about the photos or filters

Facebook's move to nab Instagram has little to do with filters and everything to do with mobile.

Facebook's aquistion of Instagram, is, um, big news.

But despite some fears and speculation about the move, Facebook's Instagram deal isn't at all about nabbing the app's impressive and oddly-named set of hip vintage filters or even the photos those filters were used on. It's about buying the community that Instagram is intimately linked to, and all the data surrounding it.

Zuckerberg said it himself in the Facebook post making the announcement:

This is an important milestone for Facebook because it's the first time we've ever acquired a product and company with so many users [Emp. added]. We don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together.

By the last official count, Instagram had 30 million users on the iPhone. That number jumped up by a million when Instragram launched its Android app. Millions of users taking, sharing, and liking photos -- is it any wonder why Facebook was so interested in the app, which is as mobile as mobile apps get?

The Instagram deal gives Facebook access to a whole new set of data points. If nothing else, Facebook's acquisition of Instragram gives it access to more information on when, where, and how people take and share photos on their phones -- valuable information in an increasingly-mobile digital world.

The mobile aspect here cannot be understated. When Facebook announced its IPO in February, one of the big questions centered on how the company planned to counter its "mobile problem", i.e. its inability to replicate its web-based success in the mobile space. With Instagram, Facebook may have found a part of its solution.