Facebook Will Kill Photo Filters for Everyone

The NYT reports Facebook tried to buy Instagram. Instagram said no. So, screw you, Instagram—Facebook's going to rip it off and do it itself. This means photo filters for everyone! Which is exactly why photo filters are doomed.

From the Times' description, it sounds pretty clear what Facebook is going after:

The engineers said Facebook will introduce almost a dozen photo filters, including some that are similar to Instagram like old-style camera lenses and grainy film. Facebook will also try to introduce new styles of filters with the hopes of drawing users away from other photo apps.

Hipstamatic popularized it, Instagram perfected it—and now Facebook's going to democratize it. Which, great? Isn't making something accessible to everyone a good thing? Yes, when it's malaria medication. Not when it's vuvuzelas. Faux-vintage photo filters can be beautiful, profound, enjoyable when used sparingly and in good taste. And this tends to happen on Instagram, with a community of photo-zealot users. Facebook, having stolen MySpace's chair, is the paragon of poor taste. Its users are a globby nebula of tackiness, low brows, and perhaps above all, horrible photos.

Photos of freshmen drinking. Photos of sophomores drinking. Two hundred badly shot snaps from vacations nobody cares about. Unattractive children. Photos of seniors drinking. People with their arms around each other. Yes—millions of images of people with their arms around each other, smiling into a void, eyes glassy, mouths ajar, peace signs in the air. This is a JPEG mausoleum.

And there's no more irritating place to superfluously alter photos than this kind of mundane shit pit. Artificial grain, over-saturation, and Lomo-blotchiness will do nothing to enhance eight kids drinking shots in a dorm room, or a sweet sixteen, or a bad trip to Fort Lauderdale. It'll only make bad, dumb photos more cloying—harder to ignore. A great aesthetic violation. What the sparkle glitter effect was to MySpace, the retro filter could become for Facebook.

And that'll ruin it for everyone. Once we become sick of something through Facebook, the service we use every day, it'll be nauseating to use it in our niche apps, too. What was at worst a twee novelty and often an artistic tool becomes a gross stain on the parking lot of the internet. Instagram shouldn't worry—which is probably why they didn't sell themselves. Instagram's still a closed app—a private club. And that's a huge part of the draw, beyond the color artifice.

Instagram isn't fundamentally about filters. Sure, they make your crappy phonecam pics look better. But they're the sideshow. The real joy of Instagram is in sharing. Instantly, everywhere, exactly how you want to. And Facebook, being Facebook, will screw that up—remember Places? Facebook won't kill Instagram, but it could still spoil the fun. Who wants to see your Nashville-tinted shots of beer pong once your uncool cousin in, well, Nashville starts posting them of her beer pong games? Instagram will survive because of its insularity, but the filters that made it huge will be run into the ground. Deep, deep into the dark ground, by a million morons with itchy camera phone triggers. [NYT]

Photo: Rachel Ryan