Instagram lets registered users upload photos or videos to the service. Users can apply various digital filters to their images, and add locations through geotags. They can add hashtags to their posts, linking the photos up to other content on Instagram featuring the same subject or overall topic. Users can connect their Instagram account to other social media profiles, enabling them to share photos to those profiles as well. Originally, a distinctive feature of Instagram was its confining of photos to a square, similar to Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid SX-70 images. This was changed in August 2015, when an update started allowing users to upload media at full size. Support for videos was originally launched in June 2013, and had a 15-second maximum duration and limited quality, with Instagram later adding support for widescreen and longer videos. Private messaging, called Instagram Direct, was launched with basic photo-sharing functionality in December 2013, and has gradually received major updates incorporating more features, including easier private sharing from the news feed, threaded conversations, sharing locations and hashtag pages, increased support for text and emoji, and the ability to make photos "disappear" after being viewed by the recipient. In August 2016, Instagram introduced a "Stories" feature, letting users add photos to a story, with the content disappearing after 24 hours. Instagram added live-video functionality to Stories in November 2016, and augmented reality stickers in April 2017.
After its launch in 2010, Instagram rapidly gained popularity, with one million registered users in two months, 10 million in a year, and ultimately 700 million as of April 2017. The service was acquired by Facebook in April 2012 for approximately US$1 billion in cash and stock. As of April 2017[update], the Instagram Stories functionality has over 200 million active users, while Instagram Direct has 375 million active users.
The login and sign-up screen for the Instagram app on the iPhone as of April 2016
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.
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".
The Instagram app, running on the Android operating system.
Following the release in October, Instagram had one million registered users in December 2010. In June 2011, it announced that it had 5 million users, which increased to 10 million in September. This growth continued to 30 million users in April 2012, 80 million in July 2012, 100 million in February 2013, 150 million in September 2013, 300 million in December 2014, 400 million in September 2015, 500 million in June 2016, 600 million in December 2016, and 700 million as of April 2017.
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.
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.
It was proven in a survey completed by 212 Instagram users that social interaction, archiving, self-expression, escapism and peeking are the five main motives of Instagram users.
Instagram's users are divided equally with 50% iPhone owners and 50% Android owners. While Instagram has a neutral gender-bias format, 68% of Instagram users are female while 32% are male. Instagram's geographical use is shown to favor urban areas as 17% of US adults who live in urban areas use instagram while only 11% of adults in suburban and rural areas do so. While Instagram may appear to be one of the most widely used sites for photo sharing, only 7% of daily photo uploads, among the top four photo-sharing platforms, come from Instagram. Instagram has been proven to attract the younger generation with 90% of the 150 million users under the age of 35. From June 2012 to June 2013, Instagram approximately doubled their number of users. As regards income, 15% of US internet users who make less than $30,000 per year use Instagram, while 14% of those making $30,000 to $50,000, and 12% of users who make more than $50,000 per year do so. With respect to the education demographic, respondents with some college education proved to be the most active on Instagram with 23%. Following behind, college graduates consist of 18% and users with a high school diploma or less make up 15%. Among these Instagram users, 24% say they use the app several times a day.
Weekend Hashtag Project
The "Weekend Hashtag Project" is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram's Community Team. Followers receive the weekend's project every Friday, and each project encourages participants to post creative photographs according to the designated theme each weekend.
Woman Crush Wednesday and Man Crush Monday
Woman Crush Wednesday is a trend on Instagram that allows users to share pictures of woman that they find appealing or have respect for by using the hashtag #WCW. This event occurs on Wednesday because that is what one of the W’s represents and is wide spread throughout all social media platforms that enable one to post images such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Similarly, #MCM is used on Mondays for "Man Crush Monday".
Throwback Thursday is a widely used trend on Instagram where users post pictures from the past with the hashtag #TBT. This trend usually includes pictures of users' early childhood, past special occasions, or monumental events. This popular trend started in 2011 shortly after Instagram introduced the capabilities of hashtags on pictures. However, according to Google trends throwback Thursday’s popularity didn’t spike until February 2012. This trend has reached popularity through celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Molly Sims.
Selfie, a self-portrait photograph typically taken with a cell phone or digital camera, has become a trending topic on Instagram becoming the “word of the year” as announced by Oxford English Dictionary in November 2013. Selfies attract a wide range of viewers as seen by the second most-liked picture on instagram from Justin Bieber’s instagram account. Bieber’s selfie with Selena Gomez acquired 1.82 million likes. This trend has sparked interest within the music industry as well with the debut of the song "Selfie" by The Chainsmokers in January 2014.
Finstagram is a portmanteau of the words fake and Instagram. Usually, the account is meant to be a more private depiction of the user. Finstagrams are commonly used by teens as a way to escape the pressures of expectations from their primary account.
Features and tools
An original photograph (left) is automatically cropped to a square by Instagram, and has a filter added at the selection of the user (right)
Users can upload photographs and short videos, follow other users' feeds, and geotag images with the name of a location. Users can connect their Instagram account to other social networking sites, enabling them to share uploaded photos to those sites. In January 2011, Instagram introduced hashtags to help users discover both photos 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 2011, a new version of the app included new and live filters, instant tilt–shift, high-resolution photographs, optional borders, one-click rotation, and an updated icon.
In August 2015, Instagram started allowing users to upload full-size landscape and portrait photos and videos onto the service, dropping the previous requirement of a square frame.
In September 2016, Instagram removed Photo Maps, which previously allowed users to see a map of their geotagged photos. An Instagram spokesperson stated that "Photo Map was not widely used, so we've decided to remove the feature and focus on other priorities".
In December 2016, Instagram introduced a feature letting users save photos for later viewing. Bookmarked posts get added to a private page in the app. The feature was updated in April 2017 to let users organize saved posts into different collections.
In February 2017, Instagram announced that users would be able to upload up to ten pictures or videos to one post, with the content appearing as a swipeable carousel.
In June 2012, Instagram introduced "Explore", a tab inside the app that displays popular photos, photos taken at nearby locations, and search. The tab was updated in June 2015 to feature trending tags and places, curated content, and the ability to search for locations. In April 2016, Instagram added a "Videos You Might Like" channel to the tab, followed by an "Events" channel in August, featuring videos from concerts, sports games, and other live events, and Instagram Stories in October. The tab was later expanded again in November 2016 after Instagram Live launched to display an algorithmically-curated page of the "best" Instagram Live videos currently airing.
A photo collage of an unprocessed image (top left) modified with the 16 different Instagram filters available in 2011
1977: The increased exposure with a red tint gives the photograph a rosy, brighter, faded look.
Amaro: Adds light to an image, with the focus on the centre.
Brannan: Increases contrast and exposure and adds a metallic tint.
Earlybird: Gives photographs an older look with a sepia tint and warm temperature.
Hefe: High contrast and saturation, with a similar effect to Lo-Fi but not quite as dramatic.
Hudson: Creates an "icy" illusion with heightened shadows, cool tint and dodged center.
Inkwell: Direct shift to black and white – no extra editing.
Kelvin: Increases saturation and temperature to give it a radiant "glow".
Lo-fi: Enriches color and adds strong shadows through the use of saturation and "warming" the temperature.
Mayfair: Applies a warm pink tone, subtle vignetting to brighten the photograph center and a thin black border
Nashville: Warms the temperature, lowers contrast and increases exposure to give a light "pink" tint – making it feel "nostalgic".
Rise: Adds a "glow" to the image, with softer lighting of the subject.
Sierra: Gives a faded, softer look.
Sutro: Burns photo edges, increases highlights and shadows dramatically with a focus on purple and brown colors.
Toaster: Ages the image by "burning" the centre and adds a dramatic vignette.
Valencia: Fades the image by increasing exposure and warming the colors, to give it an antique feel
Walden: Increases exposure and adds a yellow tint.
Willow: A monochromatic filter with subtle purple tones and a translucent white border.
X-Pro II: Increases color vibrancy with a golden tint, high contrast and slight vignette added to the edges.
Slumber: Desaturates the image as well as adds haze for a retro, dreamy look – with an emphasis on blacks and blues.
Cream: Adds a creamy look that both warms and cools the image.
Ludwig: A slight hint of desaturation that also enhances light.
Aden: This filter gives a blue/green natural look.
Perpetua: Adding a pastel look, this filter is ideal for portraits.
Clarendon: Intensifies shadows and brightens highlights. Originally released as a video-only filter.
Gingham: Washes photos out. Gives a yellowish tone when used on dark photos or a brighter, dreamy look when used on light photos.
Moon: Black and white version of Gingham, with slightly more intense shadows.
Stinson: Subtle filter that brightens an image, washing out the colors slightly
Crema: Vintage filter that desaturates images. Smooths and washes out skin tones.
Lark: Desaturates reds while punching up blues and greens – brings landscapes to life.
Reyes: Gives photos a dusty, vintage look.
Juno: Tints cool tones green, makes warm tones pop and whites glow – for vibrant photos of people.
In February 2012, Instagram added a "Lux" filter, an effect that "lightens shadows, darkens highlights and increases contrast".
In December 2014, Slumber, Crema, Ludwig, Aden, and Perpetua were five new filters to be added to the Instagram filter family.
Initially a purely photo-sharing service, Instagram incorporated 15-second video sharing in June 2013. The addition was seen by some in the technology media as Facebook's attempt at competing with then-popular video-sharing application Vine. In August 2015, Instagram added support for widescreen videos. In March 2016, Instagram increased the 15-second video limit to 60 seconds. Multi-video posts were introduced in February 2017, allowing up to 10 minutes of video to be shared in one post.
In August 2016, Instagram launched Instagram Stories, a feature which allows users to take photos, add effects and layers, and add them to their Instagram story. Images uploaded to a user's story expire after 24 hours. The media noted the feature's similarities to Snapchat. In November, Instagram added live video functionality to Instagram Stories, allowing users to broadcast themselves live, with the video disappearing immediately after ending. In January 2017, Instagram Stories reached 150 million active users, and Instagram launched skippable ads, where five-second photo and 15-second video ads appear in-between different stories. In April 2017, the Instagram Stories feature had 200 million users, surpassing Snapchat's user growth, and incorporated augmented reality stickers, a "clone" of Snapchat's functionality.
In December 2013, Instagram announced Instagram Direct, a feature that lets users interact through private messaging. Users who follow each other can send private messages with photos and videos, in contrast to the public-only requirement that was previously in place. When users receive a private message from someone they don't follow, the message is marked as pending and the user must accept to see it. Users can send a photo to a maximum of 15 people. The feature received a major update in September 2015, adding conversation threading and making it possible for users to share locations, hashtag pages, and profiles through private messages directly from the news feed. Additionally, users can now reply to private messages with text, emoji or by clicking on a heart icon. A camera inside Direct lets users take a photo and send it to the recipient without leaving the conversation. A new update in November 2016 let users make their private messages "disappear" after being viewed by the recipient, with the sender receiving a notification if the recipient takes a screenshot. In April 2017, Instagram redesigned Direct to combine all private messages, both permanent and ephemeral, into the same message threads. It was also announced that Instagram Direct has 375 million monthly users.
Following Emily White's appointment to the position of Director of Business Operations in April 2013, she stated in an interview with The Wall Street Journal 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. White left Instagram, however, in December 2013, to join Snapchat. In August 2014, James Quarles was hired as Instagram's Global Head of Business and Brand Development, a new position within the company focused on overseeing advertisement and sales efforts while developing new "monetization products", according to a spokesperson.
In October 2013, Instagram began its monetization efforts, announcing that, "over the next couple of months", video and image ads would start appearing inbetween users' photos in the news feed for users in the United States. A sample ad from Instagram, featuring the text "Sponsored" at the top right of the image, was the first to be released, with a limited number of brands being allowed to advertise in the early stages. Image advertisements officially started appearing in feeds starting November 1, 2013, followed by video ads on October 30, 2014. In June 2014, Instagram announced the then-upcoming rollout of ads in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, planned for "later this year". The same sample ad from Instagram's launch in the U.S. was shown to users in the United Kingdom in September 2014, with ads rolling out "over the coming weeks".
In March 2015, it announced that it would allow advertisers to buy "carousel ads", a way for brands to upload up to five images that users can swipe through, with options at the end for additional content or a visit to the brand's website. Following strong performance of the ad format, Instagram opened up a self-service feature for brands to buy carousel ads the following October, and in March 2016, it started allowing video in carousel ads.
In May 2016, Instagram announced the launch of new tools for business accounts, including new business profiles, Insights analytics and the ability to turn posts into ads directly from the Instagram app itself. However, to be eligible for the tools, businesses had to have a Facebook Page, with Quarles stating: "In doing that, it gives us the payment credentials, as well as if they want to prepopulate some of the information like their street address, the phone number, and the website". The Instagram Insights panel, which lets businesses see their top posts, reach, impressions and engagement surrounding their posts as well as user demographics, was rolled out first to the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, with the rest of the world "by the end of the year".
In February 2016, Instagram announced that it had 200,000 advertisers on the platform. This increased to 500,000 active advertisers in September 2016, and one million in March 2017.
Instagram has developed and released three stand-alone apps with specialized functionality. In July 2014, it released Bolt, a messaging app where users click on a friend's profile photo to quickly send an image, with the content disappearing after being seen. It was followed by the release of Hyperlapse in August, a then-iOS-exclusive app that uses "clever algorithm processing" to create tracking shots and fast time-lapse videos. Hyperlapse launched on Android and Windows in May 2015. In October 2015, it released Boomerang, a video app that combines photos into short, one-second videos that play back-and-forth in a loop.
The popularity of Instagram has led to a variety of third-party services using its functionality and adopting it into formats not officially supported. Examples include services for getting an overview of user statistics, printing photos at social events, turning a large amount of photos into thumbnails for a physical book or a large poster, and dedicated apps for viewing Instagram on Mac personal computers.
Terms of Service policy change
On December 17, 2012, Instagram announced a change to its Terms of Service policy, adding the following sentence:
To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.
There was no option for users to opt out of the changed Terms of Service without deleting their accounts before the new policy went into effect on January 16, 2013. The move garnered severe criticism from users, prompting Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom to write a blog post one day later, announcing that they would "remove" the offending language from the policy. Citing misinterpretations about its intention to "communicate that we'd like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram", Systrom also stated that it was "our mistake that this language is confusing" and that "it is not our intention to sell your photos". Furthermore, he wrote that they would work on "updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear".
The policy change and its backlash caused competing photo services to use the opportunity to "try to lure users away" by advertising their privacy-friendly services, and some services experienced substantial gains in momentum and user growth following the news. On December 20, Instagram announced that the advertising section of the policy would be reverted to its original October 2010 version.The Verge wrote about that policy as well, however, noting that the original policy gives the company right to "place such advertising and promotions on the Instagram Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content", meaning that "Instagram has always had the right to use your photos in ads, almost any way it wants. We could have had the exact same freakout last week, or a year ago, or the day Instagram launched".
The policy update also introduced an arbitration clause, which remained even after the language pertaining to advertising and user content had been modified.
The company acted quickly in response to a 2013 BBC investigation into Instagram's role in illicit drugs sales. The BBC discovered that users, mostly located in the US, were posting images of drugs they were selling and then completing transactions via instant messaging applications such as WhatsApp Messenger. Corresponding hashtags have been blocked as part of the company's response and a spokesperson engaged with the BBC, explaining:
Instagram has a clear set of rules about what is and isn't allowed on the site. We encourage people who come across illegal or inappropriate content to report it to us using the built-in reporting tools next to every photo, video or comment, so we can take action. People can't buy things on Instagram, we are simply a place where people share photos and videos.
Allegations of censorship
In October 2013, Instagram deleted the account of Canadian photographer Petra Collins after she posted a photo of herself in which pubic hair was visible beneath her bikini bottom, Collins claims the account deletion was unfounded because it did not break any of Instagram's terms and conditions.
In January 2015, in a similar incident to Collins's, Instagram deleted Australian Photography and Fashion Agency Sticks and Stones Agency's Instagram account because of a photograph including pubic hair sticking out of bikini bottoms.
Instagram has also been criticized for censoring women's bodies, but not men's, particularly through the Free the Nipple Campaign.
In March 2016, The Daily Star reported 'one million' explicit porn films found on Instagram. The videos were unearthed by tech blogger Jed Ismael, who says he's discovered over one million porn films on the site.
In April 2016, Instagram began rolling out a change to the order of photos visible in a user's timeline, shifting from a strictly chronological order to one determined by an algorithm. Instagram said the algorithm was designed so that users would see more of the photos by users that they liked, but there was considerable negative feedback. Instagram had responded a month earlier to users upset at the prospect of the change, but did not back down, nor provide a way to turn it off.
Instagram was the runner-up for "Best Mobile App" at the 2010 TechCrunch Crunchies in January 2011. In May 2011, Fast Company listed CEO Kevin Systrom at number 66 in the "The 100 Most Creative People in Business in 2011". In June 2011, Inc. included co-founders Systrom and Krieger in its 2011 "30 Under 30" list.
Instagram won "Best Locally Made App" in the SF Weekly Web Awards in September 2011.7x7Magazine's September 2011 issue featured Systrom and Krieger on the cover of their “The Hot 20 2011” issue. In December 2011, Apple Inc. named Instagram the "App of the Year" for 2011. In 2015, Instagram was named #1 by Mashable on its list of "The 100 best iPhone apps of all time," noting Instagram as "one of the most influential social networks in the world."