Published on July 10, 2016
Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them either publicly or privately on the app, as well as through a variety of other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. Originally, a distinctive feature was that it confined photos to a square shape, similar to Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid SX-70 images, in contrast to the 4:3 aspect ratio typically used by mobile device cameras. In August 2015, version 7.5 was released, allowing users to post photos captured in any aspect ratio. Users can also apply digital filters to their images. The maximum duration for Instagram videos is 60 seconds.
Instagram was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and launched in October 2010 as a free mobile app. The service rapidly gained popularity, with over 100 million active users as of April 2012 and over 300 million as of December 2014. Instagram is distributed through the Apple App Store and Google Play. Support for the app is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android handsets, while third-party Instagram apps are available for BlackBerry 10 and Nokia-Symbian Devices.
The service was acquired by Facebook in April 2012 for approximately US$1 billion in cash and stock. In 2013, Instagram grew by 23%, while Facebook, as the parent company, only grew by 3%.
The login and sign-up screen for the Instagram app on the iPhone as of April 2016
Instagram began development in San Francisco, when Systrom and Brazilian Krieger chose to focus their multi-featured HTML5 check-in project, Burbn, on mobile photography.
As Krieger reasoned, Burbn became too similar to Foursquare, and both realized that it has gone too far. And for that, Burbn pivoted to become more focused. The word “Instagram” is a portmanteau of “instant camera” and “telegram”.
On March 5, 2010, Systrom closed a US$500,000 seed funding round with Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz while working on Burbn. Josh Riedel then joined the company as Community Manager. Shayne Sweeney joined in November 2010 as an engineer and Jessica Zollman was hired as a Community Evangelist in August 2011.
In January 2011, Instagram added hashtags to help users discover both photographs and each other Instagram encourages users to make tags both specific and relevant, rather than tagging generic words like “photo”, to make photographs stand out and to attract like-minded Instagram users. In September, version 2.0 went live in the App Store (iOS) and included new and live filters, instant tilt–shift, high resolution photographs, optional borders, one-click rotation, and an updated icon. On February 2, 2011, an announcement revealed that Instagram had raised US$7 million in Series A funding from a variety of investors, including Benchmark Capital, Jack Dorsey, Chris Sacca (through Capital fund), and Adam D’Angelo. The deal valued Instagram at around $25 million.
On April 3, 2012, Instagram was released for Android phones running the 2.2 Froyo version of the OS, and it was downloaded more than one million times in less than one day. That same week, Instagram raised US$50 million from venture capitalists for a share of the company; the process valued Instagram at US$500 million. Over the next three months, Instagram was rated more than one million times on Google Play and was the fifth app to ever reach one million ratings on Google Play—as of April 2013, it had been rated nearly four million times.
Facebook made an offer to purchase Instagram, along with its 13 employees, for approximately US$1 billion in cash and stock in April 2012, with a plan to keep the company independently managed. Britain’s Office of Fair Trading approved the deal on August 14, 2012, and on August 22, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. closed its investigation, allowing the deal to proceed.On September 6, 2012, the deal between Instagram and Facebook was officially closed.
On April 12, 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for approximately US$1 billion in cash and stock. The deal, which was made just prior to Facebook’s scheduled IPO, cost about a quarter of Facebook’s cash-on-hand, according to figures documented at the end of 2011. The deal was for a company characterized as having “lots of buzz but no business model”, and the price was contrasted with the US$35 million Yahoo! paid for Flickr in 2005, a website that has since become among the 50 most popular in the world.
Mark Zuckerberg noted that Facebook was “committed to building and growing Instagram independently”, in contrast to its past practice. According to multiple reports, the deal netted Systrom US$400 million based on his ownership stake in the business.The exact purchase price was US$300 million in cash and 23 million shares of stock.
On December 17, 2012, Instagram updated its Terms of Service, granting itself the right—starting on January 16, 2013—to sell users’ photos to third parties without notification or compensation. The criticism from privacy advocates, consumers, the National Geographic Society, and celebrities like Kim Kardashian prompted Instagram to issue a statement retracting the controversial terms; regardless, the issue resulted in the loss of a portion of Instagram’s user-base, as former users switched to other photo-sharing services, which reported an increase in usage.
In January 2013, it was confirmed that Instagram had asked for photo identification as a form of verification due to unspecified violations.
Following Emily White’s appointment to the position of chief operating officer in March 2013, she stated in September 2013 that the company should be ready to begin selling advertising by September 2014 as a way to generate business from a popular entity that had not yet created profit for its parent company. In September 2013, Instagram reaffirmed its commitment to free and open access to its smart-phone app for users. During an interview with Women’s Wear Daily (WWD), White cited “the sophistication of cameras on smartphones as one reason for ushering in the transformative change”, and she used her observation of the replacement of large cameras with mobile smartphones during a fashion show as an example. On October 3, 2013, Instagram announced that it would be adding advertising to its platform.
On October 22, 2013, during the Nokia World event, held at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Systrom confirmed the impending release of the official Instagram app for the Windows Phone. On November 21, 2013, the official Instagram Beta for Windows Phone was released to Windows Phone 8 to allow Windows Phone users faster access to Instagram services; although, at the time of release, the app was still under development.
Instagram introduced sponsored post advertising targeting US users in November 2013, and UK users in September 2014.
On December 12, 2013, Instagram added Direct, a feature that allows users to send photos to specific people directly from the app. Instagram’s primary intention with the Direct feature is to compete against messaging services, including Snapchat.
On March 11, 2014, Instagram released an updated Android app with performance improvements and a flatter interface. The update was primarily intended to reduce the app’s file size and resource usage, and it was optimized for and tested on low-end smartphones sold in emerging markets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Y, which was popular in Brazil at the time.
The company’s Global Head of Business and Brand Development—a new position for Instagram—was announced in mid-August 2014. Facebook’s former Regional Director James Quarles was assigned the role, which manages Instagram’s revenue strategy, in addition to both the marketing and sales teams. Quarles will report directly to Systrom during a tenure in which he will develop new “monetization products”, as explained by a company representative to the media.
Since the app’s launch it had used the Foursquare API to provide named location tagging. In early 2014, after being purchased by Facebook, the company was switched to using Facebook Places.
On October 22, 2015, Instagram launched Boomerang, an app where you shoot a one-second burst of five photos that are turned into a silent video that plays forwards and then reverses in a loop.
On May 11, 2016, Instagram introduced a new look as well as an updated icon and app design for Instagram. Inspired by the previous app icon, the new icon represents a simpler camera and the rainbow lives on in gradient form.
By December 2010, Instagram had 1 million registered users. In June 2011, Instagram announced it had 5 million users, and it passed 10 million in September of the same year. In April 2012, it was announced that over 30 million accounts were set up on Instagram. In December 2014, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom announced that Instagram has 300 million users accessing the site per month.
Instagram announced that 100 million photographs had been uploaded to its service as of July 2011. This total reached 150 million in August 2011. By May 2012, 58 photographs were being uploaded and a new user was being gained each second. The total number of photographs uploaded had exceeded one billion.
There are also proprietary rights in content on Instagram. Instagram does not claim any ownership rights in the text, files, images, photographs, video, sounds, musical works, works of authorship, applications, or any other materials (collectively, content) that users post on or through the Instagram Services.
On August 9, 2012, English musician Ellie Goulding came out with a new music video for her song “Anything Could Happen.” The video only contained fan submitted Instagram photographs that used various Instagram filters to represent words or lyrics from the song and over 1,200 different photographs were submitted.
On February 27, 2013, Instagram announced 100 million active users, only two-and-a-half years after the launch of the app. As of September 9, 2013, the company has announced a total of more than 150 million monthly active users.
Many celebrities have profiles on Instagram, sharing photos and videos of their personal and professional lives with fans. Some celebrities deleted their accounts in response to Instagram’s proposed change to its Terms of Service, which would have allowed the photo-sharing app to sell images to advertisers without compensation to users.
Instagram was listed among Time’s 50 Best Android Applications for 2013.