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 on a variety of social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. A distinctive feature is that it confines photos to a square shape, similar to Kodak Instamatic and Polaroid images, in contrast to the 4:3 aspect ratio typically used by mobile device cameras. Users can also apply digital filters to their images. The maximum duration for Instagram videos is 15 seconds.
Instagram was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and launched in October 2010. 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, Google Play, and Windows Phone Store. Support for the app is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, andAndroid handsets, while third-party Instagram apps are available for Blackberry 10 and Nokia-Symbian Devices.
Instagram began development in San Francisco, United States (U.S.), when Systrom and Brazilian Krieger chose to focus their multi-featured HTML5 check-in project, Burbn, on mobile photography. The name “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.
As part of its second largest acquisition deal to date, 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 nobusiness 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.
In January 2013, it was confirmed that Instagram has asked for photo identification as a form of verification due to unspecified violations.
Following the appointment of Emily White to the position of chief operating officer in March 2013, White 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.
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 Brazilat 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.
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 1200 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’s users are divided equally with 50% iPhone owners and 50% Android owners. While instagram displays 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. 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. 15% of users who make less than $30,000 per year use Instagram while only 12% of users who make more than $50,000 per year use Instagram. 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.
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 Kardashianand 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 byOxford 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” byThe Chainsmokers in January 2014.
Features and tools
Users can upload photographs and short videos, follow other users’ feeds and geotag images with longitude and latitude coordinates, or the name of a location. Every year, Instagram released Top 10 Instagram geotagged locations in the world, in pictures. Users can connect their Instagram account to other social networking sites, which will enable the option to share uploaded photos to those sites.As of June 2013, users can connect their accounts to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.
In 2012, Instagram created web profiles which allows users to use their Instagram account like a social media site. This gave users a web profile featuring a selection of recently shared photographs, biographical information, and other personal details. The web feed is a simpler version of the phone app, mimicking the look and feel users are already accustomed to.
In December 2013, Instagram added a feature named Instagram Direct that allows users to send photos only to a specific user or group of users, rather than having it be viewable by all. This was viewed as a response to the popularity of services like Snapchat.
The new explore tab was introduced in mid-2012 in which 21 photos are featured when a user clicks the tab second from the left on the bottom bar of the Instagram app. The photos must be of a public user whose profile is not set to private. This section of Instagram is where users can search for specific users or particular hashtags that interest them. The explore tab on the popular social media application, Instagram, has sparked interest in many users around the world. According to the Instagram Help Center, they are “always working to update the types of posts you see in Explore to better tailor it to you” Instagram chooses photos they believe you would have interest in and have a connection with. Instagram has said, “We may show you photos and videos that people you follow have liked or are liked by a large number of people.” This means that not everyone sees the same photos on the explore page and the photos are specifically chosen to fit your personal interests and connections.
Instagram offers a number of photographic filters that users can apply to their images:
- Normal: No filter applied
- 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: Hight 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 vibrance 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. 
Recently Instagram has added a new feature when editing photographs. The button with a picture of a sun is known as the Lux effect. This tool allows you to quickly adjust the exposure and contrast through a simple 100-point slider. This new version of editing allows you to control the brightness to the saturation levels of each photograph.
Initially a purely photo-sharing service, Instagram incorporated video sharing in June 2013, allowing its users to record and share videos lasting for up to 15 seconds. The addition was seen by some in the technology media as Facebook‘s attempt at competing with Twitter‘s Vine video-sharing application.
Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we’d like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos. We are working on updated language in the terms to make sure this is clear.
The company acted quickly in response to a 2013 investigation from the BBC regarding the role of Instagram in sales of illicit drugs. 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 Collins posted a photo of herself in which pubic hair was visible beneath her bikinibottom, Collins claims the account deletion was unfounded because it did not break any of Instagram’s terms and conditions.
Related products and services
- 100 Cameras in 1 is an app available for iPhone users that provides additional effects for photos uploaded to Instagram.
- Carousel, for Macs, provides a live feed of Instagram on the Mac.
- Gramatica – app that gives Instagram users additional photo album options, such as: pinch/zoom, hide photo, and create lists.
- Hyperlapse – an app that allows users to create digitally stabilized time-lapse videos.
- Iconosquare is a free app that provides personal statistics related to Instagram, including number of followers, likes, and comments, along with usage statistics.
- Instagram & Printing – Instaprint offers a device which can be rented for social gatherings that allows users to print photographs on Instagram. Printsgram allows a user’s Instagram collection to be printed as a poster or stickers.
- Instamap is an app available for iPad that allows users of Instagram to find photos based on their location or a hashtag. Results can be displayed in a gallery or linked to a map.
- Picfx – a photography app that provides over 100 effects, textures and frames and allows you to share your finished photo on social networks
- Printic offers one of the easiest ways to print and share Instagram pictures from an iPhone. Pictures come in a vintage 3×4 inches (7.62×10.16 cm) format, with an orange envelope and a message for the recipient.
- Socialmatic – a graphic design firm in Italy created a prototype for a physical digital camera, called the Socialmatic, with the housing designed to look like the Instagram icon. The camera is designed with 16 GB of storage, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, the ability to interface with the Instagram app, and the ability to produce color prints. The project (apparently neither related to, nor officially commissioned or approved by, Instagram) seeks crowdfunding via Indiegogo, in order to be made available as a product.
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 “App of the Year” for 2011.
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