On Monday the news spread like a shockwave through the intertubes: Facebook to acquire Instagram. Not only that – but with a price tag of 1 Billion USD. The talk of the town. Disappointment with (some) Apple fans – first Instagram cheated on its loyal iOS following by offering an Android version! And now the sellout to Facebook!
Among the more balanced commentaries we liked Om Malik’s analysis. And Robert Scoble’s commentaries are to the point as well. Of course there was the danger of competition for Facebook. Of course there was probably a bidding war going on. But first and foremost it’s a manifestation of how important visual data has become to web and mobile. Quoting a great analysis carried out by Jonathan Good: there are now more than 100 billion photos created yearly, with a strongly growing trend. We take 4 times as many photos as 10 years ago. And 200 million of them are uploaded to Facebook – per day! Naturally others have noticed and covered this trend as well, a particularly nice post is the one by Erika Ogg at Gigaom.
What does all of that have to do with kooaba?
While the data that is shared on the Internet is clearly moving from text to visual (photos and videos), the tools to handle these visual data lag behind. It is simply not as easily possible to analyze the contents of an image on a semantic level as it is to analyze a text document. (And even this is pretty hard, too.)
Why should Facebook care? Or Instagram? Because this gap between image creation and analysis inhibits them from making money off that data. Facebook’s business model is advertising. Instagram didn’t have any business model (yet). Of course they could use advertising as well. But: we know that advertising works best when it is contextual to the content. If the content is an image you can’t analyze, you got a problem.
Observing and predicting these trends (smartphones, digital imagery) early on was the leap of faith kooaba was founded on in 2006. Our mission is to “connect images to information”. Anywhere where a picture is taken, uploaded, or processed. Visual recognition platforms will allow the established advertising business model of the Internet to stick around. On mobile, but also on the desktop. We build the technology for that. Of course, much still needs to be done to provide useful information for any image. A daunting pile of work in fact. But that’s what drives us every day.
Why should you care?
While handling large amounts of visual data is certainly becoming challenge for the large Web-platforms such as Facebook, a similar trend can be observed on your personal computing devices (smartphone, tablet, desktop). The number of pictures you take is ever increasing. Digital cameras have been around for only 10-15 years. Smartphones with decent cameras even only 5 years. Suppose you are 30 now, imagine how many pictures you will have collected by the time you retire. You want to show your grandson that special picture of his at the time 5-year old mother your paris trip of 2012? Good luck with finding it! You remember you took a picture of that great bottle of Whisky in Scotland in 2020? Keep digging!
In fact, our product Déjà Vu is a very first step towards solving this problem for you. It is powered by the same kind of visual recognition platform that could in the future label any picture that’s generated in the world.
Last but not least, visual recognition could also benefit Instagram directly, as observed by others as well.
In short: we are pretty excited about the Instagram acquisition. Things start to fall in place. Time to roll up our sleeves and provide the tools needed for the future.