Instagram (also known as IG) is a photo and video-sharing social networking service owned by Facebook, Inc. It was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and launched in October 2010 exclusively on iOS. A version for Androiddevices was released a year and 6 months later, in April 2012, followed by a feature-limited website interface in November 2012, and apps for Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 in April 2016 and October 2016 respectively.
The app allows users to upload photos and videos to the service, which can be edited with various filters, and organized with tags and location information. An account’s posts can be shared publicly or with pre-approved followers. Users can browse other users’ content by tags and locations, and view trending content. Users can “like” photos, and follow other users to add their content to a feed.
The service was originally distinguished by only allowing content to be framed in a square (1:1) aspect ratio, but these restrictions were eased in 2015. The service also added messaging features, the ability to include multiple images or videos in a single post, as well as “Stories”—similar to its main competitor Snapchat—which allows users to post photos and videos to a sequential feed, with each post accessible by others for 24 hours each.
After its launch in 2010, Instagram rapidly gained popularity, with one million registered users in two months, 10 million in a year, and ultimately 800 million as of September 2017. In April 2012, Facebook acquired the service for approximately US$1 billion in cash and stock. As of October 2015, over 40 billion photos have been uploaded to the service. Although praised for its influence, Instagram has been the subject of criticism, most notably for policy and interface changes, allegations of censorship, and illegal or improper content uploaded by users.
Instagram began development in San Francisco, when Kevin Systrom and Mike 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 had gone too far. Burbn was then pivoted to become more focused on photo-sharing. The word Instagram is a portmanteau of instant camera and telegram.
On March 5, 2010, Systrom closed a $500,000 seed funding round with Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz while working on Burbn. Josh Riedel joined the company in October as Community Manager,Shayne Sweeney joined in November as an engineer, and Jessica Zollman joined as a Community Evangelist in August 2011.
Kevin Systrom posted the first photo to Instagram on July 16, 2010. The photo shows a dog in Mexico and Systrom’s girlfriend’s foot; the photo has been enhanced using Instagram’s X-PRO2 filter.
On October 6, 2010, the Instagram iOS app was officially released through the App Store.In February 2011, it was reported that Instagram had raised $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 $20 million.
On April 3, 2012, Instagram was released for Android phones,and it was downloaded more than one million times in less than one day.
In March 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported that Instagram was raising a new round of financing that would value the company at $500 million, details that were confirmed the following month, when Instagram raised $50 million from venture capitalists with a $500 million valuation.The same month, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock, 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.
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 $35 million Yahoo! paid for Flickr in 2005.Mark Zuckerberg noted that Facebook was “committed to building and growing Instagram independently”, in contrast to its past practices.According to Wired, the deal netted Systrom $400 million based on his ownership stake in the business. The exact purchase price was $300 million in cash and 23 million shares of stock.
In November 2012, Instagram launched website profiles, allowing anyone to see users’ feeds from their web browsers. However, the website interface was limited in functionality, with notable omissions including the lack of a search bar, a news feed, and the ability to upload photos. In February 2013, the website was updated to offer a news feed,and in June 2015, the website was redesigned to offer bigger photos.
On October 22, 2013, during the Nokia World event held in Abu Dhabi, Systrom confirmed the upcoming release of the official Instagram app for Windows Phone,after pressure from Nokia and the public to develop an app for the platform. The app was released as a beta version on November 21, 2013, and was lacking the ability to record and upload video, though an Instagram spokesperson stated that “We’re not finished, and our team will continue developing the Windows Phone app to keep releasing features and bringing you the best Instagram possible”. In April 2016, Instagram upgraded the app to Windows 10 Mobile, adding support for video and direct messages, followed by later updates in October 2016 that extended the app to Windows 10 personal computers and tablets.
The Android app has received two major exclusive updates. The first, introduced in March 2014, cut the size of the app by half and added significant improvements to performance and responsiveness on a wide variety of Android devices. The Verge wrote that the development team had tested the app on devices not for sale in the United States, particularly low-end models like Samsung Galaxy Y, in an effort to improve the app for its userbase located outside the U.S. Engineering manager Philip McAllister told The Verge that “More than 60 percent of our users are outside the US, and Android covers roughly half of total Instagram users”.
The second update, introduced in April 2017, added an offline mode, in which content previously loaded in the news feed is available without an Internet connection, and users can comment, like, save media, and unfollow users, all of which will take effect once the user goes back online. At the time of the announcement, it was reported that 80% of Instagram’s 600 million users are located outside the U.S., and while the aforementioned functionality was live at announcement, Instagram also announced its intention to make more features available offline “in the following months”, and that they were “exploring an iOS version”.
Since the app’s launch it had used the Foursquare API technology to provide named location tagging. In March 2014, Instagram started testing switching the technology to using Facebook Places.
Announced in March 2016 and taking place in June, Instagram switched from a strictly chronological oldest-to-newest news feed to a new, algorithm-based feed. The change received “widespread outcry” following Instagram’s March announcement, but Instagram stated that the feature would help users discover lost posts, writing that “You may be surprised to learn that people miss on average 70 percent of their feeds. As Instagram has grown, it’s become harder to keep up with all the photos and videos people share. This means you often don’t see the posts you might care about the most. To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.”
On May 11, 2016, Instagram revamped its design, adding a black-and-white theme for the app and a more abstract, “modern” and colorful icon.Rumors of a redesign first started circulating in April, when The Verge received a screenshot from a tipster, but at the time, an Instagram spokesperson simply told the publication that “This is a design test only”.
On September 24, 2018, Krieger and Systrom announced in a statement they would be stepping down from Instagram. On October 1, 2018, it was announced that Adam Mosseri would be the new head of Instagram.