It’s an Instagram moment: Facebook is set to acquire the 30-million-strong photo-sharing community.

Facebook is shelling out around $1 billion in cash and stock to buy Instagram. The deal, which is subject to some red tape, is expected to be finalized in this financial quarter (in other words, before the end of June).

Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed the news on his own timeline:

“I'm excited to share the news that we've agreed to acquire Instagram and that their talented team will be joining Facebook. For years, we've focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we'll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.”

Zuckerberg said the company is committed to growing Instagram as an independent entity, with the goal of snaring more people into using the photo-sharing community.

He assured IGers (as Instagram users are called) that they can still share their photos on other communities like Tumblr, Twitter, and recent addition Sina Weibo, while they can also opt not to share photos with Facebook if they choose. Meanwhile, the Instagram concept of having followers and following other IGers will remain separate from Facebook friends, if an Instagram community member chooses not to link the two groups of people.

“We will try to learn from Instagram's experience to build similar features into our other products,” Zuckerberg wrote. “At the same time, we will try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook's strong engineering team and infrastructure.”

This is Facebook’s biggest acquisition to date, in terms of the number of users the company its buying has. Zuckerberg noted that, “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.”

It’s worth noting that Facebook tried to buy Instagram last summer, according to the New York Times. As of last August, Facebook was reported to have been working on adding photo filters to its smartphone apps.

Meanwhile, last June, TechCrunch reported that Facebook was building a dedicated photo app for smartphones. It remains to be seen what will happen with that, though perhaps Instagram, which last week launched an Android application, will become Facebook’s official photo application.

The news has sparked some debate on Twitter, with some saying that they will quit Instagram if the deal goes ahead. Others are a little more excited about the prospect.

Given the value of the deal, there’s really only one way to close this out.

Photo by vrdier