Instagr.am vs PicPlz. Which is better?

Your Facebook feed and your Twitter timeline are probably experiencing what I started calling “The fake-lomo effect”: you are probably getting lots of  updates containing URLs like instagr.am and picplz.com. Check this out.

Both Instagr.am and PicPlz are gorgeous apps that allow users to take pictures from their iPhones and apply lomography-like filters like these ones:

PicPlz:

Instagr.am:

This kind of apps for photography are not new, as other apps for iPhone like LOMO and QuadCamera were available more than a year ago, but it seems that this two apps are really rocking the market. Probably, you are using one of them, possibly both (like me). Here it is a comparison between them.

PicPlz is a service offered by Mixed Media Labs, a company founded by Dalton Caldwell (CEO) and Bryan Berg (CTO). Both of them worked for Imeem, a music-environment company that was shut down just after being sold to mySpace. Recently, PicPlz has received a $5MML investment from a16z.com.

On the other side, we’ve got Instagr.am, a service offered by Burbn, Inc. and steered by Kevin Systrom (CEO) and Mike Krieger. Mr Systrom was working for Google while Mr Krieger was working for Microsoft.

Both companies are almost the same thing, technologically speaking. They have an app that takes photos, applies a filter and then share them to social networks. They even do have created they own social network about their service: you can follow people, like photos, comment photos and do all that social stuff you are used to.

But four are three points in which they differ: web, API, photo rights and monetizing strategy. Let the fight start:

Web

PicPlz has a easy-to-use, wonderfully designed web that allows users to upload now photos from their computers. Then, the same filters are applied and the photos are shared to the social cloud. By contrast, Instagr.am does not have a web at all, except for the page where photos are shown.

API

Instagr.am was beaten by PicPlz, as PicPlz publicly released its API some time before the first one. In fact, I (as a registered developer for both services) have never received the confirmation on the public availability of the Instagr.am API. Terms of use and dates apart, both API look like very similar. PicPlz one is slightly easier for developers to use, and the information they allow to be retrieved by non-logged users is fairly more significant than the one that can be retrieved from Instagr.am.

This is the info you get from an unauthenticated API call to PicPlz:

  1. Place where the pic was taken (city)
  2. Username, display name and icon for the creator of the pic
  3. URL of the image, in 3 or 4 different resolutions
  4. Caption (title) of the image
  5. Views counter, comments counter, likes counter

While Instagr.am shows you this (using oembed “endpoint”):

  1. Just one URL for the image, one resolution
  2. Username
  3. Title of the image

It is pretty clear to me that PicPlz API is much better for developers. Data is much more rich in amount and in quality.

Some can argue that Instagr.am is more concerned about privacy, as it does not provide any information about the user (not even the profile pic!). Right. But then… why are profile images publicly available from its web? Not sure about this.

Photo Rights

PicPlz allows user to publish and licens their photo contents in several ways: from “All Rights Reserved” to “Public Domain”, passing through all Creative Comments flavors. As fas as I know, Instagr.am does not allow users to choose over any of them.

Monetization Strategy

PicPlz is free. No fees. No ads on its website. I’m not sure how they are monetizing, perhaps they aren’t yet. We’ll see. Instagr.am is less than a dolar/euro. If you want to use the app, you just have to buy the app and enjoy.

Conclussion

In view of this all, you are probably thinking that PicPlz is much better than Instagr.am. But PicPlz has nowadays no apparent way of monetizing, while Instagr.am is earning money since the first day they were in the iTunes App Store. Companies are not better just by how good their product are. It is also very important how many users you have and how loyal they are to your product.

Since you have to pay for the Instagr.am app, I think that users will be more loyal to this product than to PicPlz (I paid for it, then I use it). And loyalty is to determine a part of the future of both companies.

I use both apps daily. I love both apps. But developing layers.com connection to both of them has not been the same. PicPlz was easier and faster. I found its API was exactly like the one I should have developed, if I was in charge of it. Can’t say the same about Instagr.am.

There’s only one little step (the one on the API) for Instagr.am to become better than PicPlz but, at this time, I should state that PicPlz is a more mature and friendly service, although I see a brilliant future for both companies.

About Pablo Casado

Clinical lecturer at BarcelonaTech - http://www.upc.edu
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