Social media powerhouse Facebook will buy Instagram – the popular mobile photography app – for a staggering US$1 billion.

Instagram has already proven itself to be extremely popular with casual Facebookers and social media marketing professionals alike, with around 30 million registered users.

The buyout, the latest in a series of acquisitions by Facebook, was announced by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg in a post on his own timeline yesterday.

In the announcement, Zuckerburg assured users that Instagram would retain its own identity, saying: “We need to be mindful about keeping and building on Instagram’s strengths and features rather than just trying to integrate everything into Facebook.

“Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people,” he continued.

Zuckerburg also stressed that Instagram users would still be able to follow people and have followers entirely independently from their Facebook friends list, and will continue to be able to choose not to share Instagram photos on Facebook.

Instagram has seen enormously fast growth, despite being a baby in business terms.

The two-year-old company has just 13 employees and a virtually-non-existent bottom line. In a widely-reported comparison, the $1 billion paid for Instagram could bag the New York Times, which has been published continously since 1851.

Ali Harris, content manager at ClickThrough Marketing, gave his own spin on the situation today: “I don’t think that Instagram’s revenues are at all important to Facebook at this stage. I’m sure the takeover was inspired by user base, brand and features.

“Because despite sharing photos being an integral part of the Facebook experience, Facebook itself has never managed to make it quite as cool as Instagram has.”

Ali went on to praise the photo sharing app’s phenomenal rise: “We’ve seen Instagram take off like a rocket recently, and indeed we use the app ourselves here at ClickThrough. It’s great for sharing great-looking snaps in a matter of seconds, which is a godsend for those working in social media marketing”

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