Instagram launches to connect through photos

Faith Merino · October 6, 2010 · Short URL:

The photo-editing and sharing app allows users to connect through images

One of my favorite iPhone features is my ability to take pictures on the go and share them with friends on Facebook.  You can say so much about your day simply by taking a picture of the bumper-to-bumper traffic in which you’re stuck on a Friday evening and adding a simple caption: “FML.”  Everyone gets it.

A new app is launching today to compete with the myriad other photo-sharing iPhone apps, but promises some new fun twists.  Instagram, created by Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, allows users to snap photos on their iPhones, use any number of filters to give it a unique look (vintage Polaroid look, black and white, pink cast, yellow cast, etc.), and then share the photo on several different social networks at once (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr, or Foursquare), with a caption and location. 

But there are a couple of cool features that set the app apart from other photo-editing and -sharing apps like Photoshop Express and Hipstamatic.  For starters, Instagram is free (Photoshop Express is also free).  It’s also fast, uploading to a chosen social network instantly.  But more importantly, it takes a fundamentally different approach to photo-sharing compared to its photo-editing app competitors.  Generally, when you upload a photo to Facebook, you’re only sharing with your friends, but the app allows for more openness so you can share with and follow other app users within the app itself. 

The app seems to act as a photo-sharing social network in itself, complete with news feed, updates, the ability to follow, and more.  This is likely to catch on in a big way with photography buffs who want to see what kinds of pictures other people outside of their immediate circle of friends are taking.  I don’t consider myself an amateur photographer—I just snap and share pictures that I think are funny, like the muffin-tops on the woman standing in front of me in the grocery store line. 

Instagram could not be reached for comment, but in other interviews, co-founder Kevin Systrom has outlined the basic concept for an open photo-sharing social experience: “Most photo sharing sites are closed friend models. We’ve chosen as a product design decision to make it an open network where you can follow people. Why? We think there are plenty of closed networks for sharing with your closest friends, but none that really hammer on the openness and discovery aspect. We want people to connect through a world of images, not just with their best friends.”

Originally, Instagram started out as Burbn, a location-based app built in HTML5, but it morphed into Instagram when Systrom and Krieger took note of the fact that most people were using Burbn to share photos from specific locations.  The company has propelled itself forward on a $500,000 seed round led by Andreessen Horowitz and Baseline Ventures, and it plans to make money by eventually allowing users to buy extra add-ons and special filters, but the company plans on keeping the basic core of its product free.  

Currently, the app is only available for the iPhone.  According to the company’s website: “We are currently working on making the iPhone experience as solid as possible. Only then will we consider other platforms, but currently we have nothing to announce.”

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