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Irate about the Instagram update? Here’s what you need to know and how to escape

instagram iconOh how the mighty have fallen. Prior to this morning, it would have appeared that everyone’s favorite photo-sharing platform, Instagram, could do no wrong and incur (relatively) little user wrath. Despite raising millions upon millions, constant UI iterations, and selling to Facebook, the committed community continued to rally around Instagram. User numbers and activity soared, seemingly skyrocketing and hitting new milestones with each national holiday or event.

Then yesterday, Instagram pushed an update to its terms of service and privacy policy. The changes gave Instagram and Facebook a whole new level of access and ownership over your photos. It also meant that ads are indeed making their way to Instagram, despite my hopes and dreams this wouldn’t all quite play out that way. (I was really hoping premium accounts or brand accounts were the direction Instagram would take, but that no longer appears to be the case. And honestly, that was little more than a wish and a prayer.)

The writing has been on the wall for weeks now (months, if you count yourself among the immediate critics in the Facebook buyout). Trying to secure eyeballs prior to pushing the update was a pretty indicative move of the things to come.  

So now there’s nothing left to do but clarify what’s happening. You can decide if you want to up and leave – and if you do, we’re here to help you do it right.

What this does and doesn’t mean

I could almost hear the angry villagers wielding torches the second the “Instagram is going to sell your photos!” claims shot up. Clarification: Yes, but not really. This is basically the language Facebook used to explain Sponsored Stories when they were introduced. If you check-in or Like something (or Follow, as the case will soon be) – basically, if you do anything associated with a brand of any sort, Facebook is legally allowed to take that content you posted and turn it into an ad (or Sponsored Story).

fb sponsoredWe’re becoming increasingly used to this marketing mechanism, but it doesn’t come without controversy. Facebook was accused of being too invasive with them, and the social network has been embroiled in a lawsuit over Sponsored Stories since the feature’s launch about a year ago.

But back to Instagram: The new policy gives Instagram the right to take your images and location data in order create promotions for brands.

“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 associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you,” reads the new policy.

This means that advertisers can pay Instagram to use your posted images in a limited way – i.e., feature a gallery of Instagram photos relating to their brand on their Facebook page or website. But no one will be allowed to take that photo of you and your family at Six Flags, slap their logo on it, and use it in their ads. Again, this is all incredibly, incredibly similar to Sponsored Posts and Stories from Facebook. But Instagram did a terrible, terrible job explaining it – and headlines about Instagram selling your photos are way sexier than actually going through the legalese.

Update: Since the time of writing, Instagram responded in a blog post, basically explaining the same thing as I said here. But it’s a worthwhile read, if just to know the company is listening – and also for that “Instagram was created to be a business” line. 

Of course, you don’t have to like this: Instagram is essentially changing overnight what was a fairly private, tight, loyal community focused on sharing photos for the sake of sharing photos. 

Taking back what’s yours

If you’re mad about the changes, you go right on ahead being mad. And then take these steps.

The Instagram exporter Instaport.me is a little shaky right now thanks to user demand, but it’s absolutely worth a shot. The service exports all your Instagram photos to your other social networking accounts or your hard drive. If you can’t get it to work, try Instarchive, which sends you your photos in a zip file.

Instarchive currently has a hilarious splash page up saying: “There’s been a lot of talk about Instagram lately. We’re pretty sure the sky isn’t falling, but you should always have a backup, so we built this little tool for you.” Copygram is another service with a backup option.

Enter the Instagram alternatives

If you’re truly jumping ship, the first step is to find another ship to sail on. There is no shortage of apps that do the exact same thing as Instagram … just without all the users and arguably genius development team. Here are our favorite alternatives.

Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta an Instagram alternative.

Timing is everything … right, Flickr?

flickr exampleSpeaking of Flickr, the folks over at Yahoo should be sending gift baskets to Instagram and Facebook right about now. Flickr is back on the scene and making waves, showing off a fancy new mobile-focused app, complete with filters, and of course, a fairly robust community comes built in. The quality is high, and you’re assured a way to view and share your photos easily online – something Instagram hasn’t mastered yet. And, of course, you can push photos to Twitter without losing the content to a link.

And the feeling of heading back to Flickr reminds me of the Prodigal Son. We all used to love it so much; it had a wonderful, photographer-friendly community. And then Yahoo did a lot of things wrong with it. But downloading the app and logging in with your old account is like going home to your parents’ house for the holidays and finding those things you loved all over again. I’m not going to leave Instagram, not yet anyway. But I’m absolutely diving in to rediscover everything I used to love about Flickr, and find new things along the way. 

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