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December 5, 2013 9:08 pm

Israel’s Mobli Takes On Instagram in the Battle for Picture Posting

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Mexican Billionaire Carlos Slim (left) with Mobli CEO Moshe Hogeg. Photo: Mobli.

Mexican Billionaire Carlos Slim (left) with Mobli CEO Moshe Hogeg. Photo: Mobli.

Israel’s Mobli web picture sharing service is taking on Instagram, the U.S.-based leader, in a battle for supremacy in the online picture and video sharing business, Israel’s Globes business daily reported on Thursday.

Globes said that Instagram retaliated this week, moving to block access to its services by users of Mobli, the up-start Israeli competitor that received a major investment from Mexican telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim in November.

“Although there is no real competition between the companies in terms of scale – Mobli has 12 million users compared with Instagram’s 150 million users – it seems that the latter feels threatened. It therefore decided to block Mobli users from downloading pictures from Instagram to Mobli at the press of a button, basically banning access to the applications programmable interface (API),” Globes wrote.

In a statement, Instagram said, “Instagram’s API guidelines make it clear that an application that replicates or attempts to replace the essential user experience violates our terms of use. We have a team dedicated to reviewing apps and enforcing our policies.”

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Mobli responded: “We respect every platform’s right to do with its platform as it sees fit. We believe in the user’s right to control his content and creation and therefore commit to continuing to enable users to do with their content as they see fit. We are working diligently to create a user experience by which users will stay at Mobli because they want to.”

In March, Mobli launched a campaign calling on Instragram users to take a creative picture and upload it on Instagram under the hashtag #mylastinstagram, and then leave their service for Mobli, while competing for a $100,000 prize.

Mobli’s campaign included a flyover the headquarters of Facebook, Instagram’s owner, by a plane carrying a 100-foot banner broadcasting the campaign’s website.

Mobli has raised $89 million to date, including $60 million in a financing round in November 2013, mostly from Carlos Slim, the world’s second wealthiest man, who believes in the app and plans to offer it to all of the nearly 250 million subscribers of his mobile carrier, America Movil.

In addition to Slim, Mobli’s other high profile investors include Hollywood’s Leonardo DiCaprio and Toby Maguire, and tennis champ Serena Williams.

In an interview with Globes, Mobli founder and CEO Moshe Hogeg said, “Instagram is an amazing company, and we should doff our caps to it ten times over. But the man has not been born who will say that Mobli’s technology is not better than Instagram’s, including its CEO.”

“We’ll probably never surpass Instagram in the number of users, but we’ll differentiate ourselves in other markets. Most of the world does not know Instagram. India, China, Central America. We’ll probably be smaller than Instagram, but we’ll be big enough to have a good business,” Hogeg said.

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