We're not done with the Instagram ToS fiasco, not yet.

Facebook had thought to create some space to start experimenting with exploiting Instagram users in the manner it exploits Facebook users. But the outcry - combined with the apparent reality that photo takers saw alternatives, and were taking them - caused it to back off. The new plan? Facebook will first pick a sponsored story or other new ad scheme, then socialize the requisite ToS changes.

Wall of polaroids

Venkat Balasubramani and Eric Goldman had the definitive post on the imbroglio yesterday (hours before the news broke of Facebook's recantation).

Venkat points out that Instagram's current terms already give the company pretty much the same rights in user photos as the controversial new language. "I don’t see [the newly proposed license language] as a significant change to what Instagram can do with your photographs," he writes. In Venkat's view, the main reason for the language change was to conform the Instagram ToS to language in a settlement Facebook has recently reached with users who objected to being unwitting participants in "sponsored stories."

So the reversion to the existing ToS may not mean that all concerns raised this week will be rendered groundless, not necessarily.

One refrain Goldman repeats - in his blog and when quoted in the press - is that a clash between a social media service, any social media service, and its users, is inevitable. “The interest of the site is never 100 percent aligned with the users, and the divergence inevitably leads to friction,” Goldman was quoted this week in the NY Times as saying. “It’s unavoidable.”

But I don't think that's right.

We're in early days for the commercial web, and we have yet to see a company or visionary entrepreneur imaginative or strong enough to perceive or realize that social media's destiny is not to double down on advertising, but instead to disintermediate it.

Who knows when the Theodore Roosevelt of social media may arrive? In the meantime, a simple bridge to the demise of advertising would be for the service to split the difference, share the proceeds with users. Why not experiment with the idea that users will earn money from the surrender or license of their PII?

Photo: Kevin Dean / Flickr.

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