Less Words, More Pictures

Have you ever been on a social media app and were tired of scrolling through pages of “too many words?” The co-founders of Instagram, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger felt the same way.

After graduating from Stanford University in 2006, Systrom became an associate product marketer at Google. After leaving Google, Systrom joined up with Krieger, a colleague from Stanford University, to work on ‘Nexstop,’ a location recommendation startup app.

Previously working together in the Silicon Valley, they decided to start from the beginning.

Thus, Instagram was created. In the words of Kevin Systrom, “it is a long story, but that is what you asked for.”

On October 6, 2010, while in San Francisco, Systrom and Krieger worked together on the HTLM 5 check-in service, Burbn.

After the prototype of the app was completed, they agreed that it was not user friendly and it was too complicated to navigate.

The two thought up a new plan. For them, “It was really difficult to decide to start from scratch… [they] basically cut everything in the Burbn app except for its photo, comment, and like capabilities. What remained was Instagram”

In November of 2010, after eight weeks of tests, Instagram was finally launched.

In a matter of hours, thousands of people had downloaded the app causing the network to crash.

With the help of Adam D’Angelo, the chief member of technology at Facebook and a close friend of Systrom, Instagram was back up and running.

Instagram became best known for its filters, square shaped photos and hashtags.

Just a few short months later, Instagram was sold to Facebook for $1 billion.

With Instagram, people had a very positive initial reaction. Within weeks of launching, the number of monthly users increased to about 600 million, in addition to about 300 million daily users.

People were grateful that Instagram was so easy to use and sharing photos was made so simple.

“It is made of pictures, not text, which makes it less political than Twitter or Facebook, and therefore cheerier.”

By 2015, Instagram had become internationally popular and had received multiple awards for being “App of the Year,” and “The 100 Best iPhone Apps of All Time.” Kevin Systrom was ranked at number 66 in the “Top 100 Most Creative People in Business of 2011”

Though it was popular in the beginning, there were many causes that lead to the decline of Instagram’s popularity.

According to an April 2016 report, teenagers were more likely to choose Snapchat as their choice of social media over Instagram.

People now felt pressured to post the perfect photo in order to receive the most amount of “likes.”

Christina Mack/E! Illustration

Instagram was becoming a place for users to represent their lives in an inauthentic way. This was not the intended purpose of Instagram.

“Your connection with your friends and family are the things that make Instagram work.” Says Systrom

“All the data supports that if you follow more friends and engage with your friends, your activity goes through the roof. If you just follow more celebrity content or more interest-based content, that doesn’t move the needle at all.”

To combat this problem, Instagram borrowed the ideas of stories, direct messaging and live videos from Snapchat.

People felt Instagram violated their privacy.

On December 17, 2012 Instagram changed their ‘Terms of Use’ policy. It stated that Instagram was being paid to share users’ information and the uploaded photos were now flagged as points of interest for advertisements that pop up in user’s newsfeeds. This was all done without user consent.

People were angry with this announcement because users had no ‘opt out’ option, unless they wanted to delete their account. After one day of receiving criticism, Instagram removed the controversial language from their policy.

In March of 2016, The Daily Star reported findings of around one million pornographic accounts and videos on Instagram.

Over the last couple of years Instagram had been criticized for censoring images of women’s bodies, but not those of men.

In October 2013, Instagram deleted the account of a Canadian photographer because she posted pictures that Instagram deemed “inappropriate” due to the fact her pubic hair was visible outside her bikini bottom.

Angrily she claimed this action as ‘censorship’ because the picture didn’t break any of Instagram’s laws.

A similar incident occurred in January 2015, when an Australian photographer’s account was deleted for the same reason.

Over time, Instagram has made changes in order to stay “trendy,” and for a more practical reason of keeping up with the advancements of technology.

The first thing to change was the app’s logo and theme. The theme was very similar to that of Microsoft PowerPoint and people had a very negative reaction towards this change.

Instagram logo is constantly changing- via eyerys

Another change that was made involved adding location on a photo. When the app was first created, users had the option to use a premade location, or the ability to customize their check-in place by creating their own location names.

With one of the updates, Instagram removed this feature creating discontent among users.

Another modification made by Instagram was “fixing” the timeline algorithm. Before the change, photos would appear in users’ newsfeed in chronological order. With the change, ‘top photos’ are shown based on the number of “likes” they receive.

Even though Instagram received unfavorable responses, they didn’t change their algorithm, nor is there a way for users to manually change the option.

In 2006, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger took a once complicated concept and simplified it to make sharing photos accessible and user friendly. They did this by creating Instagram.

Despite much of the negative feedback from certain changes and updates on the app, Instagram is an overall positive advancement in world of the social media.