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Before Buying Instagram, Facebook Planned To Destroy It

Instagram's billion dollar payday is great for the sub-20-employee company. But it's worth remembering that, not so long ago, Facebook almost released an Instagram clone.

Posted on April 9, 2012, at 2:46 p.m. ET

When TechCrunch posted leaked materials about a Facebook photo sharing app nine months ago, everyone knew what it meant: Zuckerberg coveted Instagram, and he was ready to streamroll it. From the looks of these mockups, Zuck's Instagram killer was almost finished:

Said MG Siegler at the time:

[B]ased on the images in front of us, the best way to think about it appears to be Path meets Instagram meets Color meets (Path’s new side project) With — with a few cool twists. And obviously, it’s built entirely on top of Facebook’s massive social graph.

Facebook was about to do to Instagram what it had tried, and seemingly failed, to do to Foursquare with Places: shamelessly rip it off and build it into the main app. But then they didn't. The app vaporized.

And now here we are! Facebook isn't buying Instagram to get more users — it doesn't need help with that. What it needs is a better set of tools for photo sharing without being accused of screwing over the little guy. Facebook did the Right Thing this time: Buying Instagram gives Facebook permission to rip off Instagram.