Instagram — What a mesh.

Events. A mesh of people. A mesh of photos.

I’m letting you know that every company in the photo sharing space has talked about this. We talked about it at ThisLife. When we were acquired, we talked about it at Shutterfly. Recently, Snapchat is taking this on.


3 years ago I built an Invision prototype showcasing how Events could work in Instagram (all this to say that I’ve put some thought into this…). I can’t find the original work, but I managed to dig up some slices.

In hindsight, I think it could have worked then, but with Stories, there’s a better opportunity now.

Below I’ll breakdown 3 use cases of how Events could work (without prescribing too much user experience)

Use Case #1: The Disposable Wedding Camera

At ThisLife, the pitch was simple.

“At weddings, you know those disposable Kodak cameras people put on every table? We want to replace them.”

If you’re not familiar with the concept, it goes something like this.

  • The wedding couple places a disposable camera on each table
  • There are instructions that tell the guests to take photos and leave the cameras on the table
  • The bride & groom take these and develop them (hopefully)
  • And if you’re lucky, they share them

There’s got to be a better way to do this. I mean, who wants to develop photos these days…especially after all the exhausting work that comes with a wedding. Also, what are the chances that the photos will be shared? Will the people who took the photos even see the photos they took?

Instagram could be the answer.

Some properties to consider.

  • An Event: YourWedding2017
  • Public or Private? Private
  • Administrators: People who create and manage the Event. Not only do they physically create the Event, but they manage members and photos.
  • Members: People who are whitelisted to add photos & videos to the Event
  • Geo: Geo will fence the wedding
  • Shelf life: You have 24 hours to add photos & videos to the Event. Once the 24 hours are up, members get the Event auto saved to their bookmarks

When I designed this in the past, Instagram had a single UX paradigm

Photo -> Filter -> Share Options -> Share

Share Options is where I had Events prototyped.

With Stories, this becomes unnecessary. Especially since you get to leverage the “24 hour” and “Geo“ constructs inherent with Stories.

Use Case #2: 4th of July, seeing the fireworks and festivities that happened behind you.

Never missing what you were a part of, even if you didn’t see it.

You’ve probably experienced this at a 4th of July. Fireworks go off. You were there, but you missed it. Or, you saw it, and took a photo, but so did 100 other people. And of those 100, some people have the same shots you have, except better angles or better lighting. And in the most meta way possible, you and your family may actually appear in a random person’s photos.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have these?

Basically all the properties of Use Case #1 still stand except this would probably be a public Event. What gets interesting is how the Event comes to be. Does Instagram see a burst of engagement in a specific location and auto create an Event for it? Are some Events pre-created by Instagram themselves? Does every “nearby Facebook Event” automatically get an Instagram Event?

This would be neat for holidays, but also other public events like marathons or sports games.

Use Case #3: The Bubble Tea line

Don’t laugh — it’s a thing.

I used to see this with my teenage cousins. They’d join their friends in a long line at Tpumps, and they’d actually look forward to it. It wasn’t just the tea they were excited about. I think a little bit of it was they got to be in a crowd of like individuals (age and all).

After what would seem like a 30–40 minute wait, they’d finally get their order. And what comes next? You guessed it. They start taking photos of the same things. Themselves as selfies. Themselves together. Their drinks. Their drinks together. Literally the same things, from different angles and different devices.

How neat would it be to see these all these show up in an ephemeral Event? They don’t have to face their phones at each other saying “look at mine”. They all have each others photos in their Instagram. And if being able to heart and comment at the Event-level became a thing, their networks would share a single place for conversation instead of being silo’d.

Perhaps you can’t relate — you’d never wait in line for Bubble Tea. Well, you’ve probably met up with friends for brunch where someone said, “Don’t touch the food yet. I have to take a picture!” In which case, an Event would work for you, too.😉


Q: How does Instagram make money off of this?

A: I can’t speak to Instagram’s business model. Perhaps the viral nature of these ideas blow more into a flywheel that’s already making money. But it wouldn’t be crazy to charge in-app currency for a private Event. After all, in the Wedding scenario, they were going to pay for cameras and film processing. Charge $.99 to create the Event, and it still nets out way cheaper for them. Another business model could be charging by the number of photos taken, or members invited.

Q: Why 24 hours?

A: This keeps the system clean. Unique Events only need to be unique for a short amount of time. In fact, I think 24 hours could be the default/max, allowing Admins to shorten the window. Once the window is closed, the Event name frees up, and now they can be used in that general vicinity again (think Disneyland parade Events). This also helps make sure that people are editing/adding to the Event for a short amount of time. These are memories; think of the 24 hours as short-term memory, and bookmarks as long-term.

Q: How does this differentiate itself from Snapchat?

A: I want to reiterate something a lot of people have already stated. Stories is a clone of a feature from Snapchat. Sure, but the UX is different. Subtle, but different. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

By introducing Stories, Instagram created a new UX funnel. To Instagram’s credit, it’s still simple — much simpler than Snapchats. This gives Instagram a leg up; building this functionality into a simple design allows for greater discoverability, reusability, and a higher chance of success.

Q: Think pie in the sky. What could future iterations be?

A: Let’s say you’re getting married and you have a wedding venue as an Event. In its most basic form, let’s say an Event was a grid of photos. What if above all that, were circles of the Live Videos taking place. This would be neat. You have family that couldn’t make your wedding, but from across the world, they can see it live. Better yet, since multiple people can be Live streaming, they get to experience different angles and engage as if they were there.

Another idea could be super Events. What if New Years 2018 was something Instagram pre-created. And on this day, people across the world contributed to this Event.

“Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” — Facebook’s Mission

This could be a way of making the world feel united. Happy New Years in different languages, with different cultures, celebrating in different ways. In America, we have this mental picture of how New Years goes down. We get dressed up, count down, and boom, “Happy New Year!”

Is this how the rest of the world celebrates?

Imagine if Instagram had influencers in each timezone sharing how their culture is celebrating. Across the world, when the clock turned 00:01, we would have learned about each other that much more, and be reminded that our differences are what make us the same.