By John D. Sutter CNN - Facebook on Thursday launched a photo-sharing app called Facebook Camera, which aims to make it simpler for the social network's users to upload and browse photos on smartphones.
The news comes only weeks after Facebook spent $1 billion on a similar photo-sharing app called Instagram. And only days after the company's initial public offering got a lukewarm reception from Wall Street and raised the eyebrows of financial regulators.
The company says the app, which will be available late Thursday for Apple iOS devices, makes Facebook photos more fun and accessible.
"When you launch the app, you'll see a feed of just great photos from the people you care about," the company said in a press release. "You can swipe to see more of any album or tap to enlarge an individual photo."
The app lets users crop photos and add colorful filters. And people who use the app also can upload multiple pictures at once. "Just select the shots you want to share by tapping the check-mark on each photo and then hit post," Facebook's statement says. "You'll have a chance to add a caption, say where you were and tag friends before you share."
The app gets generally good marks from early reviewers, who say it is much faster than the primary Facebook app and displays photos in a large, crisp fashion.
But the comparisons to Instagram are confounding tech bloggers, who are trying to figure out to what degree Facebook was influenced by the company it purchased.
Mike Isaac, a writer at the blog All Things D, calls the app "Instagram redux," since the release comes so closely on the heels of the company's purchase of that startup.
While there are key similarities between the apps, he writes, Facebook "was most likely working on this product long before buying Instagram was ever a real possibility."
The New York Times' Bits blog also says the similarities between the apps could be overstated.
"It might seem strange for Facebook to release a camera application with built-in filters just weeks after announcing plans to buy Instagram, the social photo app," the Times writes. "But Facebook Camera is aimed at a different audience. Instagram has 40 million users, while Facebook has 900 million. This leaves a large swath of people who are not on Instagram but are actively taking photos and uploading them to Facebook. The filters in Facebook Camera were developed by Facebook and are not borrowed from Instagram."
At the blog VentureBeat, Sean Ludwig writes that Facebook Camera was "clearly influenced by it [Instagram]. Once the Instagram deal does close, we expect the lines to blur even more," he says.
Ellis Hamburger, writing for The Verge, had a more critical take:
"Had the Instagram deal never occurred, Facebook Camera wouldn't really be much of an Instagram competitor anyway, lacking any mobile-only social circles, hashtagged sharing around specific topics, tilt-shift, and interesting filters, for that matter," he wrote.