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Facebook to add photo filters, takes on Instagram

In the latest chapter of Facebook’s never-ending quest to take over all aspects of sharing online, the company has decided to add a photo-filter service to its mobile app.

According to Nick Bilton at the New York Times blog, the feature will be integrated into Facebook’s mobile app. Apparently it’s been ready for awhile now, but CEO Mark Zuckerberg wants to add even more filters than the 12 already developed before the feature is launched.

It’s a square shot at Instagram, whom Facebook was rumored to have tried (and failed) to acquire this summer. Facebook’s feature will have the same old-timey film filters that’s made Instagram so popular, along with a few new styles that it hopes will set it apart. Additionally, Instagram has yet to release an Android app, which will likely be a boon for Facebook’s service. But more than anything, Facebook is hoping that its massive market presence – there is no app more popular than Facebook’s – and its base of photo-loving users will make the feature a quick success.

But can the company really steal market share from Instagram? The jury’s out. Instagram has one of the highest rated apps in the market, and its user base has exploded to over eight million in less than a year. Instagram already has a very solid community built around the app, which makes it even more difficult for Facebook to sway people away from it.

Additionally, Instagram has the added cachet of coming out first. It has stamped its name as the photo filter app (anyone remember Hipstamatic?), which means Facebook will have a harder time convincing people its feature will be anything but a copy. Facebook’s attempt to take over Foursquare with check-ins and location mapping hasn’t really taken off, partly because Foursquare already had a rock-solid app with a thriving community.

But the likely outcome is that both Facebook and Instagram’s apps will be a success. Instagram’s big enough now, and has such an attractive user interface, that it’d be a surprise to see it go anywhere. Facebook, with its huge market share and photo-hungry users, will doubtlessly find fans in the new feature. One thing’s for sure: there are going to be a whole lot more digital lo-fi images coming to social networks in the near future.

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