Instagram API Ecosystem

25m Users

The news that Instagram has hit an estimated 25m users comes as a great relief. It has confirmed that I was correct to develop my iPad app, PictoBento, to use the Instagram API in the hope that it would remain a popular service long enough for my app to hit the App Store. This milestone seems like a good time to reflect on choosing the right ecosystem to live in.

Since Christmas [2011] the mobile photo network Instagram has gained over ten million users.  This makes Instagram the largest mobile only social network with a global reach. [March 2012]

Instagram Growth

Choosing a service based on its future popularity is normally difficult. With Instagram it was an easy decision. It was popular as soon as it launched and has only gone from strength to strength. There are similar services but Instagram has excelled. It has kept its product simple. The basic app is not much changed since release, it hasn’t pivoted like Path. They have added more filters and added more sharing options including Facebook.

Platform Decisions

The Instagram API was only released in Feb 2011.

Although we’re excited by the growth we’ve seen, we feel that the first step to creating a lasting company is to work with the many talented developers out there in the world. 

Prior to that, such was the demand, there was an unofficial implementation of the API in development.

The API provides access to key aspects of the Instagram service – viewing, liking and commenting. It does not allow the uploading of photos, this must still be done via their app, although there are hooks made available to developers to simplify this.

Instagram has kept its web site stupid, driving people to use the app. This has also allowed other product web sites like INK361Followgram and Statigram to fill that gap. Each of these web sites have used the API to their advantage, each using a differently angle to provide a unique product.

Instagram has not yet created an Android version which has focused attention on creating a great iPhone app but has allowed PicPlz to become a competitor on Android devices.

Thriving Ecosystem

Instagram’s API has become a vital part of the product. Sites like INK361, Followgram and Staticgram are all offering products that Instagram has chosen not to offer. This is all possible because of the API. The ecosystem around Instagram has been helped by limited product offerings from the company themselves. It is the developers on the fringe of the app that are benefitting.

I built PictoBento using the API’s for Instagram, dribbble and PicPlz. All services have grown in popularity since the app development was started. By choosing to live in the ecosystem of popular services, I can give my app a better start in life.

What would you do with the Instagram API? Which other popular API’s could you benefit from?


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