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Published on April 26th, 2013 | by The Town Crier


Technology Instagram – Your life in pictures

It is hard to say just where and when the social media revolution began but I would have a guess at classmates.com which was founded in 1995. The American based site put people who had attended the same school or college back in touch with each other; its business model was eventually borrowed by Friends Reunited in the UK. Classmates.com still exists today but, after years of dubious (and in some cases illegal) business practices, it is slowly sinking under the weight of fines and reparations. Friends Reunited also still exists, but it is a shadow of its former self; nowadays it focuses on dating, jobs and ancestry research. These days, social networking is dominated by Facebook and Twitter… or is it?


To make it big, to make that giant leap from being somebody’s brainchild to becoming a world spanning online sensation, a social media site needs to acquire a critical mass of users. Once there are enough people using the site and talking about it, it goes viral and the growth in user numbers becomes exponential; for example, Friends Reunited went from 3000 members to 2.5 million in less than a year. Unfortunately, social media sites can go out of favour almost as quickly as they arrive. Even Facebook is having to face up to this fact; although it is still adding users globally, the number of users in the developed world – those with the greatest spending power for its advertisers – is in steady decline. This is what happens; some other site comes along that is newer and more exciting and all the users migrate to the new site.


The new kid on the block of the moment is Instagram. If you are a parent and your children have a mobile phone, you will struggle to live in blissful ignorance of Instagram. To give you an idea of how fast Instagram is growing, in April 2012 over 1 million new users joined in less than a day. Although it has only been in existence for 2½ years, Instagram now has well over 100 million regular users. What is all the fuss about?


Instagram allows users to take pictures on their mobile phones, apply a selection of digital filters (a little like a basic form of Photoshop) and upload them to the site. Users can add captions and hashtags to allow other likeminded Instagrammers to search for similar photos. The site also integrates with other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter so photos can be automatically uploaded to users’ walls or pages. Users can also create their own basic profile page on the site. An interesting feature is that the pictures are in a square format rather than the usual 16:9 format, rather like the photos from an old Polaroid Instamatic camera.


There are lots of reasons for Instagram’s huge popularity. The site was developed from the outset for use with smartphones and Apps are available for both the Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems; between them these two operating systems cover around 90% of all smartphones. People have their phones with them virtually all the time so they use the site all the time too. The App is remarkably easy to use – take the photo, tap the screen a couple of times and the picture is uploaded to the site. Instagram have proved remarkably adept at harvesting trends among users. For instance there is Rich Kids of Instagram where teenage users take photos of themselves with supercars or wearing Rolex watches. Another trend is Hashtag Weekends where the Instagram Community submit a theme each Friday and then users submit photos that tie in with that theme throughout the weekend. I think the real key to the site’s success is that users upload photos and, as the old adage goes, a picture paints a thousand words. This is what propelled Facebook into the stratosphere in the first place.


You would think Facebook would be seriously worried by this pretender to the throne but, in fact, they couldn’t be happier. Facebook bought Instagram for 1 billion dollars in 2012.

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