NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Photo-sharing app Instagram, made popular by Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone, is being acquired by Facebook for the cool price of $1 billion, as the social-networking giant flexes its growing financial muscles. Instagram, from Burbn, is the number one free app on Apple's App Store and recently became available on Google's ( GOOG) Android market. The app lets users take pictures using their iOS and Android devices and apply filtered effects. These images can then be shared friends and other Instagram users.
There are over 15 million Instagram users, according to the app's description in the App Store. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckberg said he was excited about the deal, which will let Facebook work even closer with Instagram to "offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests." Zuckerberg said that Instagram will remain independent of Facebook, and will not be integrated into the company. "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," Zuckerberg said on his Timeline. Zuckerberg went on to say that this is the first time Facebook ever acquired a company that had so many users. "This is an important milestone for Facebook because it's the first time we've ever acquired a product and company with so many users. We don't plan on doing many more of these, if any at all. But providing the best photo sharing experience is one reason why so many people love Facebook and we knew it would be worth bringing these two companies together." Facebook announced the deal on its website for a reported $1 billion in cash and stock. In March, the company announced that it obtained a $5 billion, five-year unsecured revolver loan to replace a $2.5 billion revolver that was set to mature in 2016, according to a regulatory filing. Facebook had $3.9 billion in cash on hand at the end of 2011, according to its S-1 filing. The social networking giant is reportedly set to go public in May. According to media reports, it will list on the Nasdaq, under the ticker symbol "FB." Facebook has reportedly been valued close to $100 billion, so using $1 billion in cash and stock is a major acquisition for the company. Shutterfly ( SFLY) recently purchased the customer accounts of Eastman Kodak's ( EK) Gallery in a similar move for $23.8 million. Shares of Shutterfly plunged on the back of the news, down 7.19% to $27.35. Check out our new tech blog, Tech Trends. Follow TheStreet Tech on your wireless devices. -- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/commodity_bull. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org