When Google Plus was first unveiled, lots of photo geeks applauded the social network for its big 2,048 pixel resolution and ease of use. One of the more damning complaints leveled at Facebook was the way it compressed photos, at least until late last year. It was a long overdue upgrade, but along the way, Facebook earned a poor reputation as a space for photographers to share their work.
That frankly makes this next move seem like a step backwards: The New York Times reports that Facebook will soon be letting users add their own Instagram-like filters to their photos.
If you’re not familiar with Instagram, it’s an iPhone based photo-sharing service that now boasts over seven million users and recently crossed the 150 million photo threshold. Part of the allure is the ability to add vintage-looking filters to your pictures, which can compensate for less than ideal capture settings. The filters themselves add a kitschy charm that makes up for the iPhone camera’s shortcomings (though it’s actually quite good, all things considered).
(LIST: 10 Things You Shouldn’t Do On Facebook)
But on Facebook that won’t be the case. Sam Biddle at Gizmodo suggests that it’s the user base more than anything: Instagram’s audience tends to be photo savvy; there’s an element of competition to take better photos than your friends, and you’re not just uploading photos from the bar (although people do).
On the other hand, Facebook—a massive enterprise with over 750 million users—may be unwieldy or simply too big for this sort of image fiddling. “There’s no more irritating place to superfluously alter photos than this kind of mundane s*** pit,” says Biddle. “Artificial grain, over-saturation, and Lomo-blotchiness will do nothing to enhance eight kids drinking shots in a dorm room, or a sweet sixteen, or a bad trip to Fort Lauderdale.”
Mind you, people have been adding filters to their photos for awhile—Photobooth is one of the first applications people trend towards whenever they purchase a new Mac.
But when you contrast Facebook’s photo system with Google Plus’s, for example, the former’s interface and gallery mode seems lousy. For starters, the funnel to actually upload pictures requires a confusing array of clicks and unclear navigation. With Google Plus you can upload entire sets straight from your phone.
Perhaps it’s that we’ve been using Facebook for too long, and the updates haven’t come fast enough. Or maybe it’s because new entrants to the photo space are naturally more nimble, able to adapt faster to exactly what it is their users want.
To me, though, adding photo filters to Facebook is like stringing Christmas lights on a house that badly needs repainting. Facebook’s system isn’t broken, it just needs to be refreshed and made more user-friendly.
But it warrants mention that adding filters is probably just a setup for the dedicated photo sharing app they’re working on to compete in the mobile photo arena.
And even if that’s the case, I’m still not looking forward to the day.
LIST: The Five Weirdest Pieces from MoMA’s New Tech Exhibit
[via New York Times]
Chris Gayomali is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @chrigz, on Facebook, or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.