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January 2, 2013

Instagram Denies Reports of Large User Decline

Despite news stories to the contrary, Instagram has not lost more than four million of its users, the company insists.

“The data is inaccurate. We continue to see strong and steady growth in both registered and active users of Instagram,” the LA Times quoted an Instagram spokesperson.

The quote follows reports by AppData that users of the photo-sharing app had declined from 16.4 million during the week of its proposed terms of service changes were made public to 12.4 million Christmas week.

Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, “may have shed nearly a quarter of its daily active users in the wake of the debacle,” The New York Post wrote.

The publication went on to quote AppData: “(We are) pretty sure the decline in Instagram users was due to the terms of service announcement” on Dec. 18.

AppData, a small company that tracks Facebook stats, was overly hasty in its conclusions, according to Gizmodo.

The data represents “a small subset of Instagram’s users (those who connect their Instagram and Facebook accounts), which can’t be said to definitively represent anything at all,” the report reads. “It’s certainly not proof that Instagram lost 25 percent of its entire base, particularly when AppData’s own numbers say that Instagram’s weekly and monthly users are steadily climbing.”

Not all were skeptical about AppData’s numbers, however. Following the New York Post’s article, Facebook stock dropped 2.9 percent in its first minutes of trading Dec. 28.

Instagram’s denial of the data and subsequent stories on technology websites bashing the New York Post and AppData has led to a recovery in the stock, however.

Naysayers have also pointed out other apps —Pinterest, Zoosk and Yahoo Social Bar to name a few — also had declines in usage over the holidays.

The consensus? People had better things to do — like spend time with their families — than to be active on such apps.

The Instagram kerfuffle began last month after it had made some policy changes — set to take effect this month — which users interpreted as giving Instagram the right to sell peoples’ uploaded photos without their permission and without compensation.

“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,” the terms of service read.

Many users threatened to leave service, believing Instagram would soon have the right to grab users pictures and other data to promote itself on its website or in advertising without mention of or compensation to the owner of the images.

Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom did some quick backtracking and, in a Dec. 21 blog post.

“Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.You can see the updated terms here,” Systrom wrote. “Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work.

“You also had deep concerns about whether under our new terms, Instagram had any plans to sell your content. I want to be really clear: Instagram has no intention of selling your photos, and we never did. We don’t own your photos – you do.”