Why I uninstalled Instagram for Android

I’m usually not one averse to hypes. This blog right here is testament to the fact that I like to sign up to just about everything, especially if there’s been about a thousand people telling me how great it is. I went ahead and did the same thing with Instagram for Android. What you see below is the first picture I shared via Instagram and even below that, in a lengthy rant, I will explain why it will also be the last.

Instagram, popular photo sharing app previously available for the iPhone only, has about 35 million users by now (according to numbers I could link to but that would mean I’d have to actually look up sources, and, seriously, that’s not what I signed up for). Anyway, it is mighty popular and there’s already a number of brands cooperating with Instagram (a sure-fire  sign that a service has gone mainstream).

Yesterday, about a year and a half after its inception, Instagram delivered an Android version. Now, during those one and a half years about a myriad other services were released to satisfy Android users’ hunger for apps that provide the same functionality (namely photo filters and easy sharing). There are some apps, in my mind, which have vastly eclipsed Instagram’s functionality, but – and imagine a long sigh here please – that doesn’t mean a lot today.

You see, it’s the Internets, and here it doesn’t really matter how good you are, all that matters is how well connected you are. And with about 35 million users, Instagram connects the shit out of everything (I don’t believe that’s a phrase yet – consider it coined). Even for vastly superior services like PicPlz, life is hard because they simply don’t get the exposure they deserve. Which leads me to the actual Android app. How much exposure does Instagram deserve, apart from being early? Let’s find out!

I’m far too lazy to actually make screenshots, but The Next Web has a rather thorough comparison between Instagram for Android and its iOS version. And it’s underwhelming as fuck. Firstly: as much as iOS is heralded for its streamlined, simple design, it’s also ugly as hell. I’ve used apps on Android developed simply for the fun of it which looked better. Secondly: There’s an extensive style guide for Android out there. The good people at Instagram obviously spent exactly zero minutes looking into it. What they did is take the iOS version (complete with the no-buttons functionality) and port it to Android. What exactly took them so long, I don’t know, because I’m sure the proverbial monkeys typing away on a keyboard would have created this abomination in less time. Whatever their reasons, I think it shows a certain contempt for the platform and its users. While it’s a shit attitude, I’d have let that slide if the app was packed with exceptional functionality. But is it?

Yes, Instagram lets you put filters on pictures, then send them off to wherever you want. But what the hell is up with the squares? Why does it force me to upload square photos? I don’t really want to get into the whole iOS vs Android thing, but it so fits in the mindset of using iOS that an application forces you to use a certain format instead of the other way round. And I don’t much care for that, no matter how much people rattle on and on about simplicity.

So, what else does Instagram do? Does it have a nice destination page like PicPlz? Well, no. Does it have vastly superior filters, borders and such? No. Is it super fast, doesn’t use loads of memory and isn’t bloated? No, no and no (I admit, this is personal experience and some people may feel it’s about as fast as the Shinkansen, merely nibbles from your RAM and is as lean as a piece of jerky – but I doubt it).

Well, there you have it. Instagram may have millions of users, but it’s not for want of alternatives and definitely not because it’s so good. It just is, and that seems to be enough to spell out success. But it’s not enough for me to actually use it.

 

PS: Yes, I like dramatic endings to my blogposts, but I’m also aware that they may sound ridiculous and contrived. So let me give you an alternative one:

Instagram is shit, I can’t believe how it got so successful and I’ll gladly leave it to the iOS crowd to fawn over. Who seems to have a problem with Android users getting in on the fun anyway.

 

 

My top services of 2011

It’s the end of the year and for everyone who is publishing something, either for fame, fortune or simply as a pastime (much like knitting only with words and less needles), that’s a welcome time to fill those publishing slots with “best of” lists. It’s an easy way out of a total lack of inspiration, and since I’m as hard to inspire as the next guy, I find this practice quite agreeable.

Anyway, I was asked to contribute my top five Interweb services by the fine people at German tech blog netzwertig.com for one of their end-of-year surveys (the result of which can be seen here, in German). So I decided to let you know what I chose and why, mainly because I think it’s information so pressing, I shouldn’t withhold it from you, and also because I haven’t posted anything here for ages and that simply kills my Google ranking. So, without further ado, here’s my choices, in no particular order:

  • Google Music: You heard that right. It’s Google’s Music service, which in its current iteration is basically an online repository for the music you own, allowing you to stream it to your computer or onto your Android device. It’s something I’ve used pretty much every day for the last couple of months and even with the advent of much-hyped Spotify, I will keep doing just that. Mainly because I don’t like Spotify for the obvious reason of more or less coercing people into sharing EVERY SINGLE SONG to Facebook. What a bore! Facebook sharing is so 2010.
  • Remember the Milk: 2011 saw me return to Remember the Milk as my number 1 todo-list app. I’d used it for a while a couple of years back, but soon came to hate its lack of simplicity. Fast forward a couple of years and scores of simple todo-list apps and there I am: my life has become sufficiently complex to warrant a complex todo-list app. And I also quite liked the introduction of their very polished Android app. To make sure I keep using it, I decided to become a paying customer. It’s what I call the lazyman’s tax.
  • Evernote: Ah yes, Evernote. The good old Evernote, which I came to hate for a while back in 2010, mainly because they so steadfastly refused (and still do) to create a Linux version of their desktop app. In the meantime, Nevernote, an open source version available for Linux, has been released and I realized that I don’t in fact need a desktop version after all. Today, Evernote is where I unload all the stories, recipes, articles, notes and whatever busy and important people like me need to unload into a second brain on a daily basis (speaking of second brain, there used to be a rather interesting service named Second Brain, which covered a lot of Evernote’s ground. Unfortunately, 2011 also saw the shuttering of that service, due to lack of funds).
  • Dropbox: There’s no real way around Dropbox. It’s just too good and soon it will be so ubiquitous, people will hate it but still use it, mainly because everyone does (in case you’re not into subtleties, I’m referring to Facebook here). They introduced Dropbox for Teams this year, which is a great way to share space for a rather reasonable price. I received 20TB of free storage for writing that last sentence (disclaimer: that was a joke, I did not receive 20TB of space for writing this sentence – in fact, I rarely accept anything besides cash).
  • Angry Birds: It’s a game, it’s addictive, it helps my understanding of physics. And that is all I will say in this matter.

And that is it. You can now return to your reading of the Top-100-HuffPo-Link-Bait-Articles of 2011. Or some such thing. Lady Gaga. Naked. Bieber. Twilight.

Back to the roots with +1 OR How not to give a shit

RSS, former love-child and poster technology of the social web, is something of an enigma. For some, it’s the second coming of Christ: versatile, indispensable and it can turn one a fish and two loafs of bread into a feast that will feed a million people (disclaimer: that last point is rampant conjecture and might actually not be true). For many others, though, it’s a technology that’s so utterly uninteresting and unattractive, they’d be glad to see it disappear in the depths of that pool where great but unattractive technology disappears to die a slow and painfully ignored death. I’ll just call that the ”Not as shiny as Apple”-pool. In that vain, every year there’s renewed discussion whether RSS is dead or not and it never leads anywhere.

The motivation of the latter is clear: Twitter, Facebook and a myriad of other social networks have replaced personal curating. Nowadays, friends and contacts decide what’s worth a read, while, ideally, you can lean back and enjoy. It’s an interesting, albeit heavily flawed concept (more about why I think it’s flawed either in this article, or sometime later. It kinda depends on how much I still care when I’m done writing that other stuff you see below).

Anyway: Google Reader, after the demise of Bloglines and just about any other full-featured RSS-reader probably the last beacon of original RSS-feed love out there, recently received an update which was meant to streamline it with many other Google products. The update is mainly a facelift, adapting it to the no-nonsense, loads of whitespace, more icons, less text design of recent Google products (closely modeled on Google’s new Google+, that social network that’s a lot like Twitter and a bit like Facebook but pretending to be neither).

In addition to that facelift, they also removed its social elements, that is seeing what people you added within Google Reader shared, and the ability to share your stuff with others in return. Instead, they added a big and shiny +1 button underneath every item, allowing you to send stuff to your Google+ profile.

Basically, Google  turned their reader into another content provider for their fledgling social network, removing what they regard as cruft and detrimental to their goal of reaching world dominance. And by world dominance I mean social network dominance (I’m not THAT paranoid).

There’s a small but outspoken minority of Google Reader sharing fans and they are pissed off (as is, according to TechCrunch, all of Iran). Google doesn’t care and I don’t think they should. You see, Google Reader is, first and foremost, a feedreader. You feed it with feeds, it slices, dices and does its thing and what it spits out is what you consume. I remember quite clearly when after their second iteration (the first one was a dud and everyone simply KNEW that Google’s Reader would fail against the mighty Bloglines), that they introduced social elements. And back then, everyone either balked or was foaming at the changes (there was actually not a single person on earth who liked them from the start – I know this for a fact). Fast forward a year or two, and lo and behold, people actually liked the social elements. Fast forward another few years and people are foaming at the mouth for removing those features.

My point, for all you tl;dr people out there: Google Reader is now what it used to be initially: a tool to read your feeds. If you want, you can share articles to your peeps on Google+. And that, my friends, is that.

PS: So no, I don’t feel like elaborating on the flawed concept of the recommendation system. Fear not, I might have time on my hands sometime in the next few months to actually write something up.




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