10 things you should know about Instagram

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Instagram has captured the hearts of iPhone users around the world with its elegant design, filters that turn any photo into a potential work-of-art, and — most importantly — integrated social sharing that’s quick and easy.

It’s enjoyed one of the most successfully launches ever for an iPhone app and is adding 130 000 users a week. The incredible thing is that it’s not even eight months old. Here’s what you should know about this hot new app.

  1. It was originally called Burbn. Kevin Systrom, founder, CEO and ex-Google employee, created an app called Burbn before Instagram (the company is still called Burbn Inc). Burbn let people share photos, comment on streams, post videos and check in with friends. But Systrom and co-founder, Mike Krieger, never launched it. They decided to simplify the application instead, because they both liked photography and were concerned that “another check-in app” wouldn’t be unique enough.
  2. The founders met their investors in a bar. Hunch.com arranged a drinks event in San Francisco, and his is where Instagram’s founders first made contact with the two venture capitalist firms, Andreessen Horowitz and Baseline Ventures, that would became the initial investors in Burbn Inc. Their seed funding? A mere US$500 000.
  3. Its server crashed on launch day. Instagram didn’t expect such a huge amount of international interest and the online media excitedly posted stories about the new app the day it launched. The server went down a few hours later. Systrom said he “had never felt so sick”, but then Jack Dorsey told him, “Compared to the beginning of Twitter, you guys are doing just fine.”
  4. It reached 500 000 users in under a month. And it took only three months to hit the one million users mark (that’s faster than Facebook). There was no marketing, no massive investment – first-round funding was US$7-million, nowhere near Color’s US$41-million – just word-of-mouth and the simple premise of fast, simple photo-sharing that looked cool. As Systrom says, “You need to explain what you do in 30 seconds or less because people move on to the next shiny object.”
  5. Over 300 000 photos are uploaded every day. That’s far more than the 20 000 tweets a day Twitter had after its first six months. This fast-paced growth is not dropping off yet either. Not bad for a pair of 2006 Stanford graduates.
  6. It’s available in 10 languages. One of the great advantages of Instagram as a kind of ‘photographic Twitter’ is that there is no language barrier – a Russian artist can follow a Japanese banker via the images he shares (the earthquake in Japan was extensively shared on Instagram). That was always one of the goals for Systrom and Krieger. They didn’t think cross-platform as much as across continents, bearing the international market in mind from the beginning.
  7. It’s coming soon to Android. When exactly this will be announced is not yet clear, but the founders have said from the start that Instagram would eventually be available on Android phones and they are working on developing this.
  8. You can create an RSS feed. Instagram allows you to create an RSS feed using hashtags – http://instagr.am/tags/[hashtag name]/feed/recent.rss. Brands have already started doing this in a variety of creative ways. Unfortunately there are no user RSS feeds (yet), so if you want everyone reading your blog or website to also see your Instagram shots, you’ll have to hashtag each image.
  9. It’s based at the old Twitter offices. The Instagram team were originally working out of Dogpatch Labs, but soon needed their own space. When these historic offices in San Francisco’s SoMa area became available, they jumped at the chance to move in.
  10. Profile statistics are available on Statigram. You can often judge the popularity of an app by how quickly it gives rise to analytical tools. Statigram provides detailed graphs and figures for your Instagram account. It gives monthly overviews and allows you to see which of your photos are most popular (based on comments and likes), which followers most frequently engage with you, and your most frequently used filters.

The notion that the greatest ideas are usually the simple ones has been proven yet again by Instagram. Numerous other photographic apps could have implemented the features it offers years ago (Flickr really missed a trick), but it took two guys going out on their own to see what the market really wanted and to be brave enough to ditch their original concept. Happily, the pay-off has been huge.

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