Pic-ing fights: Instagram blocks Mobli from using its API

The latest salvo in the multimedia sharing site wars involves up and coming mobile photo sharing site Mobli as Instagram deems the young startup a legitimate competitor and blocks access of its API

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Whoever said the words ‘sharing means caring’ might have to re-evaluate their bright eye’d gee golly characterization when they get their update from Mobli informing them that Instagram access will no longer be an option. Dog-gone-it is right!

Just tell me why?

Mobli, an Israeli startup and mobile photo sharing app, has been informed by Instagram and is subsequently informing its users, that the Instagram API is no longer being made available to the company. Users of both platforms will have to choose one or the other, or doom themselves to a lifetime of redundant uploading.

Instagram for their part claim their API is open to everyone, except if you’re a competitor. Seems reasonable on the face of it but some questions begin to creep up when you dig a bit underneath the surface:

For one, what changed? Mobli is the same mobile photo sharing app today as it was yesterday. It’s not like they experienced an overnight mutation like boost in user numbers. A quick look at the Google Play store has the app sitting in the same 1M-5M download range it’s been sitting in for a while now and the appstore data charts don’t reflect any big changes in the last few weeks. Compare that Instagram who counts something around the 100M user range, according to avid shopper at the billion dollar store and proud new owner of the service – Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

So sudden new competitor? At least not by a number-of-users definition.

How about by a funding definition? Here there’s a little bit more solid footing to base the foundations of an argument on. Just last month Mobli announced the completion of a $60M funding round giving the 3 year old company a total of $90M to play with. How such a newbie company finagled $90M out of investors while sporting a relatively small user base is a good question but irrelevant to our discussion.

The fact is Mobli has the capital to become a major player in the media sharing market, and its relationship to investor, América Móvil Chairman Carlos Slim, gives it potential access to an entire region of South American mobile users. The above does not represent a forgone conclusion in which millions of América Móvil subscribers are the inevitable future users of the Mobli app, but the combo of money an access could be enough to argue that Mobli does indeed represent a legitimate competitor on Instagram’s level.

The system message Mobli sent out to all its users.

The system message Mobli sent out to all its users.

It’s my app and I’ll deny if I want to

And that could be it. I could just chalk up Instagram’s play to a strategic response levied against a future threat by a company with the means and the motive to make good on it, and pack it up and call it a day – if it weren’t for the long and sordid history of petty, and at times, childish ‘he started it’ type fighting amongst those who laughably call themselves sharing apps.

It all started in December of 2012 when Twitter announced that it was blocking Instagram photos on its platform. Their claim though, was that the real blame lied with Instagram. Apparently Instagram had stopped using Twitter cards, which provide a short summary of the content on the network and, according to Twitter, the cessation of its use resulted in the oddly cropped and misaligned placement of its photos on their site. Instagram acknowledged their role in the problem in a statement saying:

“A handful of months ago, we supported Twitter cards because we had a minimal Web presence. We’ve since launched several improvements to our Web site that allow users to directly engage with Instagram content through likes, comments, hashtags, and now we believe the best experience is for us to link back to where the content lives.”

In other words, I wear Pull-Ups now and I think I deserve a little more recognition.

About two months later Facebook hit back by blocking Twitter’s Vine service. Facebook never really directly addressed the block. In a vague reference to the move by Justin Osofsky – VP of Media Partnerships & Global Operations at Facebook – Osofsky stated in a blog post: “For a much smaller number of apps that are using Facebook to either replicate our functionality or bootstrap their growth in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook, such as not providing users an easy way to share back to Facebook, we’ve had policies against this that we are further clarifying today.”

Of course none of this applied to Vine, making the subtext read, “Facebook is mine… Mine, mine, MINE!”

So enter in Mobli to the mix. Why shouldn’t they get the same anti social treatment the social kings have been welcoming everyone else with once they grow past blip size proportions in the new Social?

Geektime got in touch with Mobli COO Ido Sadeh and asked him what he felt the reasons were behind Instagram’s actions? “I don’t want to comment as to the motives behind Instagram. What I will say is that at Mobli, we  believe a user’s content belongs to the user. We understand that each platform, can and should do, whatever they see fit to do by way of their policies. The real issue here is of denying users the freedom to use their photos to the fullest. We don’t believe this to be an example of best practices.”

We’ve also reached out to Instagram for comment but have yet to receive an official response.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/ babies fighting

Avi Schneider

Global editor and writer for Geektime, author of the book 'How To Fight For Your Goals: Social Combat Theory' and the SocialCombatMedia.wordpress blog, founder of Cluboom and former senior writer for Blonde 2.0. Schneider is an orthodox Jew, husband, father, martial artist, writer, speaker - overall Jack of all trades and a master of jack (but working on it).



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