The Future of Photo Sharing – Instagram

How do Instagram become the most popular App of teens?

Social networking APP and Instagram Image by Jason Howie at Flickr with CC Licenses


Nowadays, with the advancement of science and technology and the rapid development of social networks, using social media to record our life become an important part of our daily route.  “Social Media” is a multifunction place not only allows people to contact friends but also have photo-sharing or video-sharing capabilities or built-in blogging or instant messaging, etc (Boyd and Ellison, 2008). The main reason for the popularity is because they are cheap and easy to use (Power, 2014). At the same time, they are not like face-to-face interactions, we can immediately communicate globally without being restricted by time and space (Power, 2014). With the tremendous growth of the internet, there are a lot of social media sites has created, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Facebook as one of the most successful social media in these generations, it has almost 2 billion monthly active users (Facebook, 2017). However, the photo social software Instagram as the subsidiary of Facebook popularity has even surpassed Facebook. Instagram has rapid expensed to over 700 million monthly active users at April 2017(Han and Myers, 2018). Why Instagram can attract internet users to become one of the most popular social media platforms? If we simply share photos, I believe other websites can do the same. In the following article, I will provide a history and overview of Instagram. Secondly, I will also analyse the business model of Instagram and the social networking ecology. Lastly, a discussion on Instagram’s influence on our lives.

The Begin Of Instagram

Instagram is a mobile-video platform which started up and running by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger as at October 2010 (Sengupta and Perlroth and Wortham, 2012). Back to January 2010, Systrom originally created an app called Burbn which combines location services and online games app. It had a lot of different function which allows users to earn points, make plans, post pictures and much more. However, Systrom and Krieger quickly discovered Burbn easily make users felt cluttered and overrun with features, therefore they have decided that Burbn world not work (Systrom, 2011). Then they decided to create a new app with the most popular photo features of Burbn users as the main theme and renamed “Instagram” (Sengupta and Perlroth and Wortham, 2012). The reason they changed the name from “Burbn” to “Instagram” is that “Instagram” it sounded camera-y and

“We renamed because we felt it better captured what you were doing — an instant telegram of sorts,”

As Systrom answered in Quora (Systrom, 2011). Instagram has a really good start, it grew to 300,000 users by just 3 weeks (Sengupta and Perlroth and Wortham, 2012). Soon, Mark Zuckerberg started to contact them and in 2012 Facebook purchased Instagram in $1 billion, Instagram becomes one of the subsidiaries of Facebook (Carah and Shaul, 2015). At present, Instagram has become the most nearly 60% of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 29 in the US with more than 700 million monthly active users in the world. Instagram has made a significant milestone for social networking sites and becomes one of the most famous apps of teenage around the world today (Huang and Su 2018).

A Brief Overview Of Instagram

Kevin Systrom, Co-Founder of Instagram Photo by @kmeron at OFFICIAL LEWEB PHOTOS, Flickr with CC Licenses

  Instagram as a mobile video-sharing platform, it created a place that for non-professional users present their shooting, editing and distributing online more easily and freely. As Systrom said,

“Our mission is to capture and share the world’s moments.”

It breaks through the old rules that only professional can present their works. (Buchanan, 2013) Instagram has a lot of different functions, such as the Stories, filters, trend, explore, hashtag, mapping and the latest feature IGTV which all are surrounding the main theme of Pictures and videos creating visual communication for users. As a social media app, it successfully creates the continuous and habitual use of user by scroll, tap and glance at a never-ending flow of images (Carah and Shaul, 2015). Instagram have directly connected to the user’s emotions in 2 main way. First, as said above, the users can involve the production of images by using the features in Instagram and share the images of their lived experience. Second, users can watch flows of images and social with others by liking and commenting. Both can make the continuous of the user’s engagement on the platform and also the reason they can gain steady growing of users till now(Carah and Shaul, 2015).

The Business model of Instagram 

As in the big data era, data become a valuable tool for companies. Instagram not only a free social photo sharing platform for us, but also a place the for different brands, companies or advertisers to easily reach a large audience by advertising. Instagram as a free app, it doesn’t directly get revenue by users purchasing the app instead of the makes its money from advertising (Simon 2018). According to Marne Levine, the chief operating officer said that Instagram’s advertising enabling small businesses to target marketing at particular users (Ahmed and Cookson, 2016). For example, companies can set their target audience of which range of age or sex or interest, and the minimum cost is AU$30 in order to advertising on the platform on Facebook or Instagram (Instagram Business, 2018).

Apart from the direct advertisement for companies, companies can also build up their brand business account on Instagram and manage their account to show their products. At the same time, because of the daily life aspects setting, companies can easier get attraction by the users or consumer to share their daily photo. They can also invite the famous Instagram stars to recommend or doing blind advertising by posting photos with their products to appeal the consumers. For example, the customers sharing the selfie with their company products and posting on Instagram with the brand hashtag and comments can become a part of the promotional apparatus of the brands (Carah and Shaul, 2015). These activities not only can build up the company’s image and as a free advertising, but also a huge amount of engagement of social networking. Instagram successfully forms a market relationship through daily life and cultural space around the production and distribution of images (Carah and Shaul, 2015).


Effective tips to get Instagram Followers by Peter Neuhaus at Flickr with CC Licenses


Instagram Ecosystem

 According to the “Network Ecology and Adolescent Social Structure”, a social networks ecology is examined how do features of social environment shape the structures by affecting the nature of interactions and relationship and to affect the social networking environment (McFarland, 2014). Instagram as a social networking application platform, it not only offers a platform for users to share their everyday life photos and videos, but also an easy and wide range-communications way for the users around the world. Users as content Creators not just by posting pictures but also engage by viewing and liking and commenting. Instagram didn’t design for advertising or analytics tools until 2014(Carah and Shaul, 2015). Now Instagram as the above tools, brands and advertiser also become one of the important content creators and the partner of Instagram. The relationships and interactions between content creators shape a mutual benefit social environment through the circular process (McFarland, 2014). Moreover, the core supporters of Instagram are the digital distribution platform, such as the IOS App Store and Google Play store for Android mobile. They offer a platform for mobile users to download the app. In addition, as the government have the rights and power as a regulator of social media platform, Instagram has been blocked by the Firewall created by the Chinese Government in China (Xiao,2018).

As Facebook acquire Instagram by $1 billion cash and stock deal in 2012 and at October 2018 the co-founder Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger decided to leave, Facebook becomes the developer and owner of Instagram (Price, 2018). Although Instagram as the subsidiary of Facebook, it is also the supporter and competitor of Instagram. Instagram users can also share their photos on their Facebook page at the same time if they had linked both accounts together. However, Facebook also as one of the fully functional social networking site and app, it is also a direct competitor of Instagram (Han and Myers, 2018). Companies such as Snapchat, Pinterest and Vine are direct major competitors of Instagram, they all mainly aim to provide a platform for photos and videos to users (Kim and Seely and Jung, 2017). Vine as one of the most used video sharing applications which allowed users watch and loop six-second-long video clips has announced to be shut down at 2016 by Twitter, because of its lack of advertising potential (Sperling,2016). It shows that the competition of social networking is fierce with the rapid development of the Internet.

Below is a diagram of Instagram’s ecology:

The influence of Instagram

1.Changed the communication way of people

  With the widespread and development of smartphones, internet and social media become an important way for us to communicate to each other. 10 years ago, we started using the mobile we call to text messages to contact friends and family. At present, with the social media platform appears it taking place of phone calls and text messages undeniably (Serafinelli,2017). As the popularity of Instagram growing, people are more willing to share their daily life photos to gaining like and comment. People using pictures and videos as a visual communication to interactive with friends and family. This phenomenon refers that the social communicating way is changing to more shorter and easier than the past (Serafinelli,2017).

Moreover, the geo-tag created a new social connection between society. In Instagram, we can not only hashtag words or people but also mark the place that we have been by the GPS device. The geo-tag allows us to find and share the moment in the same place as a facilitator of social engagement(Serafinelli,2017). It breaks the boundaries of physical distances, we don’t need to face-to-face to interact with friends but using photos to keep in touch, knowing the life of others. The features of photo sharing and hashtag on Instagram are a better way to interact with the specific topics of interest (Armstrong and Hagel p.85). We can easily search and post our interest with photos and related hashtag to connect and communicate to the common interest members. Indeed, Instagram had created a different social relationship between online and offline.


2.Privacy and copyright Concern

Although Instagram provides a great platform to share our daily life, it may link to some privacy problem. Instagram as a free and open social networking platform, users can easily post and find about some personal information of others. Even though Instagram users can set their account as private, it’s hard to avoid the followers reposted the photos to somewhere else without asking the owner. According to a survey on “Telematics and informatics”, Instagram users tended to worry more about their information being posted on the SNS platform because of the privacy concerns (Choi and Sung 2018). At the same time, with the huge number of photos and videos posting daily, Instagram is hard to solve the copyright problem, it can only report by the user individually to make corresponding punishment.





With the rapid development of technology, people started learning using social media to keep in touch with society. Social media means that people communicate or learn different kinds of information from the virtual Internet world. People communicating space is not limited to their own living places. With the help of social networking sites, like Instagram we can meet different kinds of friends come from different regions, countries, etc. In addition, social media has many uses, such as marketing, for different types of customers. Companies are able to sell their products by posting and do all kinds of advertising. It is a fantasy world for all of us.
Many people today are used to communicating through the online world. However, is it really that perfect? The popularity of communication technology has also brought about various problems caused by the phenomenon of Internet access, such as the “phubbing” who often do not leave their phones off their hands, or the situation of “Internet addiction”, etc. Instagram as the group of social networking platform, it created a new cultural phenomenon and it also started appears the negative site of itself. All in all, people started relying on social media to interact with the world. These habits leading us to ignore our real lives gradually devour our ability to value the true and beautiful things around us.


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About Regina 3 Articles
Major: Film Studies & Digital Culture From Hong Kong

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