Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new acquisition. The team behind Instagram will now be part of Facebook. The most compelling piece of Zuckerberg's post declares that Instagram will remain an independent product, which is good news for the Instagram API.
In fact, much of Zuckerberg's post is spent explaining just how independent Instagram will be. Here's the choice section:
That's why we're committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.
An acquisition of this size (BusinessInsider pegs it at $1 Billion) is unprecedented for Facebook. Instagram had millions of users and over a year of real traction. That is perhaps the reason that Facebook chose to keep Instagram independent. It would actually be more successful to keep it than to integrate it.
Facebook acquisitions are usually for the talent, as with Gowalla last fall. Usually, as with Gowalla, Facebook takes down the product and sometimes integrates the functionality within Facebook. The social network bought NextStop and its team of ex-Googlers, then immediately shut it down. The former head of NextStop became the product manager behind Facebook Timeline. Similarly, Drop.io went away once Facebook bought "most of" the file sharing service.
FriendFeed was a relatively early acquisition for Facebook and it's one of the few products acquired by Facebook and not shut down. Though FriendFeed sometimes feels like it's on a single server in the Facebook janitor's closet, the service and the FriendFeed API are still running.
Instagram joins this short list of companies acquired and not shut down. It's good news for the Instagram API and the greater community of users. And these sorts of large acquisitions that remain independent have worked out well in the past: look no further than Google and YouTube.