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Friday, December 21, 2012

Instagram\'s Loss Is a Gain for Its Rivals

One app's loss is another app's gain.

The uproar over changes to Instagram's privacy policy update Monday has helped a number of photo-sharing applications garner unprecedented amounts of traffic and new users.

Pheed, an Instagram-like app that gives users the option to monetize their own content by charging followers to see their posts, gained more new users than any other app in the United States. By Thursday morning, Pheed had jumped to the ninth most downloaded social networking app in Apple's iTunes store, just ahead of LinkedIn.

O.D. Kobo, Pheed's chief executive, said subscriptions to the service had quadrupled this week and that in the last 24 hours users had uploaded 300,000 new files to the service - more uploads than any other 24-hour-period since Pheed first debuted six weeks ago.

In the wake of user uproar, Instagram announced late Thursday that it was reverting to its original terms of service agreement.

By then, competitor apps were already gaining momentum. Another runaway success has been Flickr, Yahoo's photo-sharing service, which redesigned its app last week to make it easier to share photos on Twitter just as Instagram announced it would no longer sync with the Facebook rival.

The day before Instagram first announced changes to its terms of service, Flickr's mobile app was ranked at around 175 in Apple's overall iTunes app charts. Since then, the application has skyrocketed to the high-20s.

Florian Meissner, one of the founders of a photo-sharing service in Berlin called EyeEm, said that he also began noticing an increase in the flow of new users around the time that Instagram began shutting down its Twitter integration last week.

But usage skyrocketed on Tuesday, after Instagam firs t released its new terms of service. Mr. Meissner did not share how many people flocked to the app but said that daily sign-ups had increased by a thousand percent and were still climbing.

Starmatic, a start-up that takes its influence from the toy Kodak camera of the same name, also said that the volume of photographs funneling through the application was at an all-time high this week.

“Starmatic has benefited from a massive buzz and arrival of disappointed Instagramers,” said Jean-Philippe Evort, one of the founders of Starmatic, in an e-mail.

Parker Emmott, the co-founder of Waddle, a private group photo-sharing service, said the company had not updated or marketed its service since early August but noticed an unexpected spike in usage this week.

“Everybody wants privacy and control, but nobody wants to do any extra work to have it,” Mr. Emmott said. “Instagram's changes seem to have helped push the privacy curve forward.”

Som e photo apps took direct aim at Instagram. One photo filter app, Camera+, even went so far as to include a snarky, holiday-themed reference to Instagram's stumbles in an app update Wednesday.

“We'll never do shady things with your shared pics because it just isn't right,” the app's update noted. “On that note, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

For now, Camera+ allows users to apply filters to photographs and share them across other platforms, including Instagram. But John Casasanta, a principal at Camera+ maker Tap Tap Tap, said the app was planning to incorporate its own sharing features in coming months.

When it does, Mr. Casasanta said Camera+ would not sell user data or incorporate ads, but would continue to make money charging users a small fee - currently 99 cents - to use premium features. Mr. Casasanta said that model had worked well and expected Camera+ to make its ten millionth sale next week.

Of course, most of these services are still tiny compared to Instagram, which claims to have more than 100 million members who have uploaded roughly 5 billion photos using its service. And it's not clear if their newfound members have also deleted their Instagram accounts or are merely dabbling in other offerings. But the migration, whether temporary or permanent, is a reminder of the volatility of success and that the fall to bottom can sometimes be as swift as the rise to the top.

Facebook and Instagram declined to say whether or not they had seen any significant number of account deletions or if they were concerned about losing a foothold in the photo-sharing market to rivals.