Instagram Surges to 700 Million Users

Posted on April 27, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Cloud, iOS, Mobile, Music + Videos, Social with 15 Comments

Instagram Surges to 700 Million Users

Instagram this week announced that it now has over 700 million users, a dramatic increase in usage since last year. Count me in: My own usage of this service has likewise increased.

As you may know, Instagram is owned by Facebook. And that’s interesting when you think about it: Instagram ostensibly competes with the core Facebook offering, as it is, at heart, a social network based on content sharing. Of course, Instagram is all about photos, whereas Facebook appears to have devolved into a service for fake news, your politically crazy friends and relatives, and people who mistake this service for a diary.

I’ll get back to that in a moment, but for me, the big news here is that Facebook is on pace to have four services with over one billion users each by the end of 2017. That’s an astonishing achievement, and in my opinion, one that is richly deserved, given how much Instagram, in particular, has improved in recent years.

For the record, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp all have over one billion users, and Instagram, with over 700 million users, is closing in. In this “mobile first, cloud first” era, “one billion users” is the new “billion-dollar business,” which is how we measure success with more traditional firms, like Microsoft.

Facebook’s path to this success is interesting.

Messenger, for example, started as a feature of the core service, and when Facebook pulled it out of its mobile app and created a standalone Facebook Messenger app, users were outraged. Until they just got over it and continued using the standalone app.

The other two services, Instagram and WhatsApp, are acquisitions. Facebook acquired Instagram in April 2012 for about $1 billion, a paltry sum compared to the over $19 billion it spent on WhatsApp in February 2014.

Looked at another way, both Facebook and Instagram are essentially social networks. And both Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are instant messaging solutions. Facebook has one in-house offering in each category, and one acquisition in each. It’s almost like it’s hedging its bets.

But I’m most interested in the sudden rise in Instagram usage, since this rise—and the acceleration in this rise—has in fact mirrored my own usage of the service.

I joined Instagram in October 2011, I think—I can’t actually figure out when this happened for some reason—but then I did what I (and many others) often do with this kind of service: Made a few quick test posts and then went back to whatever I was doing elsewhere.

The issue for me was that Instagram, a service created specifically for photo sharing, was always a terrible place to share and enjoy photos. Instagram started as an iOS app, and its two most notable features were its tiny, square-cropped photos and the terrible, overly-saturated filters that I felt destroyed, not enhanced, what you were trying to share. Instagram, to me, was a joke. It was the selfie-stick or SnapChat animal ears filter of its day.

But things change. And in keeping with my philosophy of continually testing the competition as well as my time-crusted traditions, I kept going back to Instagram—and other photos services, of course, like Google Picasaweb, at the time, and Flickr—and seeing whether it was still a non-starter.

And for years it was. But last year, something clicked. Instagram had long ago given up on forcing square-cropped photos on its users, deemphasized the filters, and improved the quality and size of the photos you see in the service.

As important, it started to fill a need that is tied to my own specific—perhaps peculiar—use of social networks.

I regularly use three social networks today. I use Facebook exclusively to keep up with family, friends, and other people I actually know. I don’t post any work-related nonsense there for the most part: It’s just personal stuff. On the work side, I use Twitter to interact with readers and listeners, and I mostly don’t publish personal photos there. (Though I’m me, so to speak, so this stuff sometimes filters through.)

Others handle these services differently, and I’m perhaps just old enough that I actually find it irritating sometimes. For example, I know many people who post work-related things on Facebook, an act I find troubling as I would never promote myself to family or friends. Others post personal photos of their family and small children on publicly-accessible networks like Twitter, which I would never do either, if only for basic privacy reasons.

But I take a lot of photos, and I enjoy looking at photos. And Instagram now fills an interesting role for me as a place I can post a selection of personal photos, and enjoy others’ photos. And now, since my kids have grown up, I can go back through the archives and post some of those pictures I have of them when they were young. Because they aren’t anymore.

In fact, after experimenting with Instagram last summer during our home swap in Paris, I decided to use Google Photos’ amazing search capabilities to look up the photos from the past each day and post them to Instagram, retroactively, creating over the course of a year a pretty complete look back at my life, and the lives of my family. I do this every day, and it will end in July-ish, and then I’ll just post to Instagram normally as time moves on.

But this behavior has seen some interesting reactions, and I’m reminded of the weirdness you see sometimes on Twitter and other networks, where one is admonished for not conforming to an unwritten standard that others have created in their own heads. (See my note about irritation above, yes, I’m a hypocrite.) For example, sometimes I’ll tweet something on Twitter, remember an related thought, and then just respond to my own tweet. Which inevitably leads to a bunch of rocket scientists asking me why I’m “talking to myself.” Because, you know, Twitter has to work exactly like in-person communications.

On Instagram, specifically, I’ve received some negative feedback about me posting older photos, as if posting any photo to a photo-sharing service could possibly be outside the bounds of what is acceptable. One friend jokingly congratulated me on my new career as an Instagram photographer, for example. Whatever: Once the year comes around, I’ll be done.

More important, this experience has shown me that what I really care about in all this sharing—in both directions—is the photos. And as Facebook has devolved, I find myself caring much more about what’s happening on Instagram as a result. This is further strange because I know far fewer of the people I follow on Instagram than I do on Facebook. In fact, Instagram is a real hybrid service for me, in that I follow things that are important to me, as I do on Twitter, and not just people I happen to know. It’s been more rewarding, for sure.

I’m not going to knee-jerk it and just leave Facebook. But I find myself infuriated by the service because of all the bullshit that people post there. And these are people I know and care about, which makes it all the harder. Yes, lots of what I see are things I do really care about, and Facebook is a great way to keep up with friends and relatives that I don’t see in person very often. But too many people share news stories (I don’t read Facebook for news real or imagined, and sorry, Bob, or whoever, I don’t come to you for breaking news about the latest celebrity death or airline customer service fiasco). Too many post meme photos. Kitten and bunny videos because they don’t like the way the world is going and need a little burst of happiness. Endless complaints and rants about nothing and particular. And my all-time favorite: The navel-gazing diary entries. Which are too often about unexceptional food.

So I spend more time on Instagram these days, and I will continue to slow and re-evaluate my Facebook usage as a result. It looks like I’m not alone.

 

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Comments (15)

15 responses to “Instagram Surges to 700 Million Users”

  1. Rob_Wade

    I guess I'm a study in contradictions. I take a LOT of pictures. But I don't really share that many at all. And I don't sit and spend any real time looking at photos I've taken. And, with extremely few exceptions, I don't care to sit and look at other people's pictures, probably because the topic of the pictures isn't going to be any more interesting to me than the topic of my pictures would be of interest to someone else. Once again, I'm clearly a minority consumer.

  2. skane2600

    I suspect Paul is one of the older non-celebrity users.

  3. mmcpher

    I miss the cameras on my old Lumias! I love photos, from friends, relatives or strangers. But I don't love Facebook and bailed out years ago. I manage to find the news I am interested in without FB's direct algorithmic manipulation. But most of my family and friends are on FB to different degrees. When they share news and photos, it's inevitably through FB. There's a near universal expectation that everyone participates. Not only do dead-enders like me miss out on family news and photos, it's actually held against you that you're out of the loop. "Why didn't you come to the dinner? Why didn't you comment on my pictures of my baby?". Because I had no clue and no access. I still object to FB to the extent that the fallout from being a holdout is an exchange I'm happy to take.

  4. richfrantz

    I left FB and FBM when I found IG in 2015( I think).


    FB just drains away too much time. IG I can go in and out of my feed whenever I feel. And Yes!!! the crap that permeates FB now.

  5. bpaul14

    I love the pictures in Instagram, but I got tired of it because in addition to following friends and family, I also made the mistake of following sports teams and sports related topics. This exposed me to the really ugly side of people who post negative and nasty comments about every photo. The nasty comments were always showing as I scrolled through. I've noticed InstaGram does a better job of not displaying comments so readily, so maybe it's time for me to give it a try again.


    I definitely agree with Paul that Facebook has become less fun than it used to be.

  6. Darmok N Jalad

    Facebook might be the downfall of humanity.

  7. Chris_Kez

    Paul, it sounds like you and I share the same very narrow sweet spot for what constitutes an appropriate Facebook post, lol.

    Probably half of my time on Facebook is spent clicking "See fewer posts like this" or "Hide posts from [insert dumb Facebook page your friend shared]".

  8. Chris_Kez

    I want a Facebook filter called "Original Content" that excludes all memes, news, photos from other pages, quotes, etc. Give me nothing but stuff actually written or created by my friends.

  9. Waethorn

    OMG DUST FOTD?


    IGERS FTW!

  10. JHawkZZ

    "Facebook appears to have devolved into a service for fake news, your politically crazy friends and relatives, and people who mistake this service for a diary."


    You should have made this a premium article. That sentence ALONE was worth the price of admission. LOL!

  11. DaveHelps

    Yes, me too.


    I like Facebook. I see it as a genuine evolution of how homo sapiens communicates.


    But every month or so I spend ~30 minutes blocking post sources from my Facebook news feed. Not the poster, but the justuniladmemewhatever they shared a post from. It works, for a while. But then the sources mutate, like a fungus, and instead of reading about how my old friend is pregnant I'm looking at a video of a confused cat. Again. (Side note, I'm pretty sure I've completed the internet.)


    So I also find my Instagram usage trending up. I follow museums, art galleries, National Geographic and the ISS. Good stuff.


  12. gyrptech

    lol in light of the recent revelation that 20-30% of Twitter followers are fake accounts (if that's the number they're willing to give up publicly the "real" number is probably much higher, to the tune of 50%+), no company's self-proclaimed subscriber numbers can be taken at face value that have not been independently audited. Unfortunately many companies valuations are based on "pulled out of our arse" subscriber numbers.

  13. screen23

    We have been all looking to get the instagram hack at here when we got to know of the website here for the password that we can get here.

  14. jordanss123

    Sacs de sport | DECATHLON | Sac de sport pas cher, petits prix http://www.vinatrend.com http://www.goleroapp.com

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