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 Rise of the visual content  machines– Instagram

Rise of the visual content machines– Instagram

“Pictures speak a thousand words.”
Instagram, a photo sharing iPhone application was build with a similar idea. Known as “Burbn” in its beta phase, the check-in app could also add photos.  What was interesting was the fact that apart from photo sharing the app saw very little engagement.


Hence they tried building “Just Photos” another prototype where only photos could be shared with friends and family. But at the end it was not launched because applications like Hipstamatic, a photography company which also provided IncrediBooth and SwankoLab for iPhone and Snap magazine already existed. But what still did not exist was a photo sharing app with a social functionality.
This led to the ideation of “Instagram’’. Instagram allowed the user to click images using their mobile phone and share them instantly with the world. There were three fundamental things that were kept in mind while developing this application. They focused on:

  1. Creating beautiful photos
  2. Allowing users to share them on multiple social networks
  3. Making the entire process quick


“We focused on three – we weren’t trying to reinvent the world of photography. We focused on these three humble problems. And that’s what turned Instagram from yet another network tackling photos, into a network people used.”
Foundation 16: Kevin Systrom

The journey after the big launch
Instagram was launched on 6th Oct, 2010. The application was launched exclusively as an iPhone application with the release of iphone4 which gave them
the perfect platform providing a high quality camera displaying high resolution images which can be edited and shared with friends and family instantly.
Within its first 24 hours of launch over 25,000 users logged in and by week 3 the numbers grew to 300,000 and then into the tens of millions. The launch was a success and the main reason for its heighten demand was the founder Mr. Kevin, who had in his interview with Internet Television Network Revision 3 in January explained about his product and created a hype in media. Kevin also let highly influential people like bloggers and contacts like Mr. Dorsey of Twitter use the test version of the application before the official launch. Mr. Dorsey used the application to upload all his images on twitter and in just a matter of time, the word spread through his followers.
Battles fought on their way

Instagram also fought its own battles. First, due to the increasing demand they had to shift to Amazon’s rent a server service over night to avoid any technical glitches and slow down or capacity constraint. Next, it was seen that Mr. Kevin and Mr. Krieger had to carry their Mac Books Airs and wireless cards everywhere they went to get online anytime for trouble shooting technical glitches which happened a lot with shooting influx of traffic.

Recently it came under the line of fire for introducing a revised version of private policy and terms of service. According to the modified policy any image uploaded can be used by Instagram or Facebook for advertisement based on its likeness. All images on Instagram are considered as commodities. This saw an outrage of protest from users and thousands of complaints poured in on twitter. Following which Instagram reacted by a tweet:

Then Instagram posted a blog entry clarifying various aspects of their privacy policy and promised that they would modify their language making their message clearer. However they did not promise to make any substantial changes in the policy.
Read the complete blog here:
Gaining Popularity
So what about Instagram actually caught users’ curiosity and liking? Is the fact that the application allowed users to tweak the images with its strikingly unconventional borders and filters which made the images more striking adding a nostalgic glow? Or was it the speed and ease with which one could upload and share their photos? While it is yet to be discovered, it’s known that one of the few things that worked strongly in favour of Instagram was that soon celebrities joined the league.
Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez were the only two celebrities who had 1 million followers before the android version of Instagram was released. The app gained popularity only after the release of android version and its acquisition by Facebook.
The android version of the application was released by April 2012. This move got them a whooping one million people signing up for them in just 24 hours. The success did not go unnoticed, investors lined up but Mr. Kevin was not interested in selling it. They maintained a small highly qualified team of 11 which included many Stanford graduates.
The decision of not selling Instagram changed when Mr. Kevin met Mark Zuckerberg. The deal was closed in just 48 hours which also speculated that Mark Zuckerberg was threatened by the Instagram’s growth. Also, Instagram acquisition was a perfect solution to strengthen Facebooks’s foothold in mobile application space. Mack Zuckerberg considered this as an important milestone for Facebook’s growth in future. The deal was finalized for a $1 billion cash-and-stock deal.
Following these two events, the big guns on Instagram saw a spike in number of followers. Until now it had seen only 27 million downloads but now it saw 50 million downloads and excluding Instagram’s accounts many more celebs received over 1 billion followers. Today the top 5 spots are occupied by Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and Kendalln Jenner. Looking at brands, MTV, Starbucks, Eonline, Victoria’s Secret and Burberry take the top 5 spots.
In recent times, it has been gaining special popularity amongst sports enthusiasts as a number of them kick start their campaign and share their story/experiences post event through images. It has also been seen that smart phone users login and spending more time on Instagram than Twitter. The trend has been consistent since August.
So while visual social media is still in its infancy stage, the unbeatable factor of Instagram success is its mobile aspect. Like pinterest, Instagram is one of the platforms benefiting from it. Instagram being one of Facebook’s biggest investments makes it even more interesting to watch what their next move would be and how will Facebook use Instagram and make it into a money plant.
So stay tuned, as the battle for Facebook and Instagram to continue to remain as a market leader has just begun!

The article is taken from the latest eBook Virality from Simplify360.


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