In the largest acquisition to date for the site, Facebook has just acquired its nearest photo-sharing competitor Instagram for the tidy sum of around $1 billion—an amount of money that, as you know, is cool. Even cooler: The power to take everyone’s faux-vintage mobile phone photos and subsume them under the Facebook banner, thereby all but cornering the market on social media-based quirkiness. (With Hipstamatic recently integrated into Instagram, that’s truer than ever; perhaps Pinterest will find its way into the Facebook fold next?) Of course, in announcing the deal, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg claimed that it probably wouldn’t be looking to acquire another company with so many users in the future—if ever again—but that he made this one-time, $1 billion exception because “providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook.” (The other reasons: providing the best way to know when your friends are watching TV or their kids said something adorable, two activities Facebook has yet to figure out how to transform into extra profit.)
And while this merger seems likely to provoke some "R.I.P. Instagram" doomsaying, for now, at least, Zuckerberg says—and Instagram’s CEO reiterates—that the two experiences will remain separate, as Facebook continues to grow Instagram “independently.” Zuckerberg adds that this means users will retain the ability to share Instagram photos on non-Facebook networks, follow Instagram users who are not their Facebook friends, and—perhaps most importantly—not share your Instagram photos on Facebook if you don’t want to. (Which, speaking for your followers, is fine with all of us, really.) Granted, this is true only until Facebook completes its deal to own all of your photos, including the ones you haven’t even taken yet.