To be fair, I’d sell for $1 billion, too.

Hot on the heels of Instagram for Android’s release last Tuesday, Facebook announced that it has acquired Instagram for $1 billion in a combination of cash and stock options. The photo sharing app with more than 30 million users, (which has doubled since December 2011) will keep it’s team in place to continue to build, and maintain Instagram as a separate entity.

Without the team’s vision and leadership, the Instagram experience could be lost. Facebook makes it easy to share photos with friends and family, but the company hasn’t ventured into mobile photo editing or dedicated photo apps. The Instagram product will have the benefit of Facebook’s engineering team without the handcuffs of any Facebook exclusivity.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows that Instagram users love to share photos on many social networks. To avoid the backlash of angry Instagram users, he makes it clear that Instagram will continue to support sharing to other social networks. On his Facebook page, he writes:

“We think the fact that Instagram is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience. We plan on keeping features like the ability to post to other social networks, the ability to not share your Instagrams on Facebook if you want, and the ability to have followers and follow people separately from your friends on Facebook.”

At its core, Facebook is really about photos and this only underscores that. Think about it. What do you and your friends use Facebook for? Mostly to share photos. A little news here and there, but mostly photos.

The mobile-social sector is still up for grabs. As Om Malik points out on his blog, “Instagram cracked the code where Facebook itself failed: viral growth on mobile.” Imagine what kind of dilemma Facebook might face if Twitter or Google swallowed up Instagram first. Certainly, this I-almost-fell-out-of-my-chair valuation (for a company with no revenues) is mind-blowing at first, but Facebook not only bought itself a photo-sharing service, but insurance in losing its biggest appeal.

Look, I’m a huge fan of Statigram, but an immediate upside to this acquisition for users might be that they soon have a better online place to peruse all of their photos. There are Instagram pages for shared photos, but no way to explore the users other photos on the web. We may see this functionality added sooner rather than later.

What do you think, has Facebook jumped the shark? Did Instagram sell too soon? Is this a good play for both? Or do you hear the distant sound of thousands of hipsters abandoning Instagram?

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