Will Facebook Use Instagram to Copy Snapchat?

source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosenkrieger/

Facebook Inc.’s (NASDAQ:FB) photo sharing site, Instagram, is reportedly experimenting with its own messaging service and may have even started creating @instagram.com email addresses for it, according to a report from TechCrunch.

An anonymous source working for an e-commerce company sent TechCrunch a list of @instagram.com email addresses that the person received as a part of a request for data from social networking sites. TechCrunch tried sending emails to the Instagram addresses and using an Instagram email address, but the attempts resulted in an error message.

“We requested verified email addresses for the followers of a certain fan club on Twitter and received back these results,” TechCrunch’s source wrote in an email. “We use [the data provider] as a tool for gathering information, and suddenly A LOT of the email fields were being filled in with Instagram email addresses.”

TechCrunch points out that Facebook also instated email accounts for its users when it updated its messaging service in 2010. Having an email address attached to a messaging service is a way to keep users engaged with a specific platform and also provides the messaging service with more functions, including the ability to sync email with messaging.

So what would Instagram do with a messaging service? The photo sharing site already has 150 million monthly active users and recently started monetizing through ads in its mobile app. A clue may be in Facebook’s recent attempt to purchase the photo messaging service Snapchat.

Facebook offered $3 billion for Snapchat, an app that allows users to send photos that are erased after a few seconds. Snapchat is not yet profitable, and there are some serious questions as to how a service with self-destructing picture messages can be monetized, but its user numbers have been skyrocketing. Those rising figures led Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel to decide to wait until Snapchat gains more users before considering investments or acquisitions.

One option for an Instagram messaging service could be a Snapchat-style platform that allows users to send ridiculous or inappropriate photos without worrying about them popping up on the Web. Instagram is already monetized, has a large user base, and has been around much longer than Snapchat, so perhaps Facebook could use Instagram to beat Snapchat at its own game.

Instagram declined to comment for TechCrunch’s story.

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS

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