Is Facebook Taking Aim At Instagram?

Rumor has it Facebook might add photo filters in order to compete with Instagram, among others.

Facebook just might be suffering a case of usability envy — at least that’s what some technology pundits are saying.

Much more likely is a case of user-base envy. Instagram, Kevin Systrom’s iPhone-based photo-sharing application, already has seven million users and houses upwards of 750 million digital photos, having only launched on the App Store in October 2010.

Instagram’s popularity has to do with how easy it is to use — making it a snap to gussy up run-of-the-mill photos.

Regardless of what exactly prompted the social network to pay attention to how it handles photographs, Facebook now appears hungry for a piece of the action.

That assumes, of course, that Facebook is in fact going to add photo filters to its own mobile app, as Nick Bilton has suggested in The New York Times.

Facebook has not announced any new photo filter application. But the Times‘ Bilton cites two unnamed engineers at Facebook as allegedly claiming the social network plans to unveil a handful of photo filters. Apparently some of them resemble popular features on Instragram.

Uploading photos to Facebook from a mobile device still requires a patience-testing maze of clicks in a world where time is at a premium and competitors like Google Plus, Flickr and Twitter can do it faster.

But this may soon change.

What’s clear is that users care how their photos appear. Image quality, ease of loading photos and quality of display all matter to them. The photo-filter system offering the most of what users want is the one that will retain them. Until something flashier comes along, at least.

Further agitating the upcoming photo-filter turf battle is, of course, Apple; the hotly anticipated iOS 5 is expected to contain photo filters, possibly integrated into Apple’s mobile platform, according toTechCrunch.

Oh, by the way, have you checked out Instagram’s page on Facebook? It has 35,796 fans so far.

Do you think a Facebook-created photo-filtering application could compete with Instagram?