Instagram was launched on October 6, 2010, where it was initially only available for iOS.
The app reached one million registered users after just two months and one billion users in 2018. By 2022, the app will now have 1440 billion users. Yes, you read that correctly 1440.000.000.000 users!
One thing we can say for sure, Instagram, Facebook and other social media have certainly changed our world and social norms permanently. By 2022, almost 30% of the entire world population will use the app!
The story of Instagram’s explosive rise reads like a Silicon Valley fairytale, with the company booming within a few months. It took the software engineers just eight weeks to develop the photo and video sharing application before launching it on Apple’s mobile operating system in October 2010. In less than two years, Facebook (META) had acquired the company for $1 billion in cash and inventory.
In 2009, Kevin Systrom, a 27-year-old graduate of Stanford University, worked at Nextstop, a travel recommendations startup. Systrom previously worked at Google (GOOG) as a Corporate Development Associate and did an internship at Odeo, a company that would later evolve into Twitter (TWTR).
Although Systrom had no formal training in computer science, he learned to code at night and on weekends while working at Nextstop. He eventually built a prototype web app called Burbn, which was inspired by his taste for fine whiskeys and bourbons. The Burbn app allowed users to check in, post their plans and share photos. While location-based check-in apps were very popular at the time, Burbn’s photo sharing feature was very unique.
A pivotal turning point came in March 2010 when Systrom attended a party for Hunch, a Silicon Valley startup. At the party, Systrom met two venture capitalists from Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz. After showing them the prototype of his app, they decided to have a cup of coffee to discuss it further. After their first meeting, Systrom decided to quit his job and focus on Burbn. Within two weeks, he had raised $500,000 in seed funding from both Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz to further develop his entrepreneurial venture.
This seed funding enabled Systrom to begin building a team of people to support his business; the first to join him was 25-year-old Mike Krieger. Krieger, also a Stanford graduate, previously worked as an engineer and user experience designer at the social media platform Meebo. The two knew each other from their time as students at Stanford.
After Krieger got involved, the two reassessed Burbn and decided to focus on one thing in the first place: photos taken specifically on mobile devices. They carefully studied leading apps in the photography category at the time. For Krieger and Systrom, the Hipstamatic app stood out because it was popular and had interesting features you could apply to photos, such as filters. However, it lacked social media sharing capabilities; Systrom and Krieger saw potential in building an app that bridged Hipstamatic and a social media platform like Facebook.
They stepped back and stripped Burbn down to his photo, commentary and “like” features. It was at that time that they renamed their app Instagram, combining the words instant and telegram. They also started to focus on improving the photo-sharing experience. Their intention with the app was that it would be minimalistic and require as few user actions as possible. After eight weeks of refining the app, they gave it to friends to beta test and evaluate its performance. After fixing some bugs in the software, they released it to start.
The Instagram app was launched on October 6, 2010 and had 25,000 users in one day.
By the end of the first week, Instagram had been downloaded 100,000 times and by mid-December, the number of users had reached one million.
The timing of the app’s release was ultimately a fluke, as the iPhone 4, with an improved camera, had been launched just a few months earlier, in June 2010.
After Instagram’s rapid increase in user base, more investors became interested in the company. In February 2011, Instagram raised $7 million in a Series A funding round. One of their investors was Benchmark Capital, which valued the company at about $25 million. In addition to institutional investors, the company attracted the attention of other leading companies in the social media technology industry, including Twitter and Facebook.
While this new funding round gave Systrom and Krieger the opportunity to hire more people, the founders decided to keep the company very small, with just a dozen employees.
Systrom knew Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, from his time as an intern at Odeo. Dorsey showed a strong interest in the company and followed the idea of taking over Instagram. Twitter reportedly made a formal offer of about $500 million in stock, but Systrom turned down the offer.
By March 2012, the app’s user base had grown to approximately 27 million users. In April 2012, Instagram was released for Android phones and was downloaded more than a million times in less than a day. At the time, the company was also close to receiving another round of financing with a valuation of $500 million. Systrom and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had met through events held in Stanford, and the two had been in touch during the early days of Instagram’s rapid popularity.
In April 2012, Facebook (now Meta) made an offer to buy Instagram for approximately $1 billion in cash and stock; an important provision was that the company would continue to be managed independently. Shortly thereafter and just prior to its initial public offering (IPO), Facebook went ahead and acquired the company for $1 billion in cash and stock.
Instagram made available a website interface with limited features in November 2012.
In June 2014, the company introduced an app for the Amazon Fire device and finally, in 2016, it created an app that made it compatible with Microsoft Windows tablets and computers.
Instagram hit a bump in the road in December 2012 after updating the Terms of Service (TOS). This update effectively granted Instagram the right to sell users’ photos to third parties without notice or compensation. The move was immediately criticized by privacy advocates and many of the app’s users; some users responded by deleting their accounts. Instagram eventually withdrew the controversial terms.
While Instagram has a variety of features, the app’s interface allows individuals who have created a free account to upload media, both photos and videos. Users can then edit the media they upload with filters and organize them with location information and hashtags (a word or phrase preceded by a pound sign that is mainly used on social media platforms to identify posts on a specific topic). Users can make their profiles public or private; the difference is that with a public profile, a user’s photos/videos can be viewed by any other Instagram user, while with a private profile, users can approve who they want to see their posts.
Instagram users can browse photos and videos of other users by searching for hashtags and locations. They can also scroll through a collection of trending content and interact with other users’ photos and videos by clicking buttons that allow them to ‘like’ a post or add a text comment to a post. When a user “follows” another user, it means they add that user’s photos and videos to their feed.
The first version of the Instagram app only allowed users to display their media in a square aspect ratio (an aspect ratio is a proportional relationship between the width and height of an image). For a square aspect ratio, the height and width of an image are the same. This meant that Instagram users could only post media that at that time (in 2010) matched the iPhone 4’s 640 pixel width. In 2015, this feature changed and users could upload media that was larger (up to 1080 pixels).
Since it first launched, Instagram has also added a messaging feature and the ability for users to include multiple images or videos in the same post.
One of the most popular features of the app is ‘Instagram Stories’. This feature allows users to post photos and videos in a separate feed of content in the app. These types of messages are visible to other users 24 hours after the original message. According to Instagram, 500 million people will use Instagram Stories every day from 2022.
Instagram was launched on October 6, 2010, where it was initially only available for iOS. The app reached one million registered users after just two months and one billion users in 2018.
Instagram was originally a photo sharing app with various filters and enhancements for photos taken with a mobile phone. It combined features of the then-popular app FourSquare, which allowed users to tag photos with people, locations, or other information to share. The creator, Kevin Systrom, has said he developed the app because of his love of photography.
Instagram’s focus on photo sharing and commenting led to strong user engagement and word of mouth as users encourage their friends and family to get involved. Its simple interface and popular features also made it popular. This combination resulted in users, who have notoriously short attention spans, scrolling through many messages and, in a sense, becoming addicted to using the app.
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