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Apps that changed the world: Instagram

Instagram Featured Image

This instalment of our apps that changed the world series looks at the phenomenon that is Instagram (“Instagram” is a portmanteau of “instant camera” and “telegram”).

How has it changed the world? There is arguably nothing quite like it in terms of photo sharing, and the way it has turned more than a hundred million people into avid photographers and sharers. The Instagram community has posted more than 16 billion photos to date (more than twice that of other services such as Flickr), and there are tens of millions of new photos shared every single day.

The origin of Instagram is quite a well known story. While working at a company called Nextstop, a kind of trip recommendation site that was bought out by Facebook, company co-founder Keving Systrom had an idea for a HTML 5-based mobile app that would let users could check-in to locations, earn points for socialising with friends, and also post pictures. They managed to raise $500,000 in just a couple of weeks and started the Burbn service, which later became Instagram on its official launch in October 2010 as an iPhone-only app.

Within just a month Instagram boasted a million registered users – an amazing achievement considering it took Twitter 2 years to attract a similar user base. Perhaps even more impressive are the figures for Android – when it became available in April 2012 for Android 2.2, the app was downloaded more than a million times in less than a day.

Instagram was eventually acquired by Facebook in 2012 for a billion dollars in cash and stock, and has essentially remained an independent service to this day.

Instagram epitomises our visual culture

Instagram in Pocket

For many people, especially the younger generation, Instagram is the favourite app to document and share what’s happening. It has also done more than any other app to popularise applying filters and photo sharing. But what was once simply a fun way for people to post selfies, Instagram is becoming increasingly important as a way for brands to promote themselves, for celebrities to post their latest shenanigans, and even for researchers to learn more about our habits. For example, last year Jetpac analysed people’s expressions in photos from 40 UK cities and found that Belfast seemed to be the happiest, specifically a pub called the Parlour Bar in Elmwood Avenue (the unhappiest place turned out to be Salford…).

It seems inevitable that photo and video sharing will only go from strength to strength as consumers everywhere upgrade to smartphones and mobile networks become ever-faster, especially in developing countries.

Instagram Filters
Never used Instagram? Filters like these are one reason for its popularity.


Facts and stats

Here are some quick facts and statistics about Instagram garnered from around the Internet. It’s highly probably however that these figures have already been superseded.

  • Instagram has more than 300 million users
  • 70 million photos and videos are sent each day
  • 53% of internet users aged 18-29 use Instagram
  • On average, for every 33 likes, one comment is received
  • There are 8,500 Likes per second and 1,000 comments per second
  • The most popular photo filter is “no filter”
  • 68% of users are female
  • 17% of U.S. adult residents who live in urban areas use Instagram
Instagram Stats


It’s interesting that the most Instagram traffic is generated in the US, the company’s home turn, followed by Russia, Brazil and the UK. Until now however, Instagram has traditionally not been as popular in Asia, leaving much room for user growth and expansion in future.

Instagram Stats


In terms of growth in the US, Instagram’s annual growth looks set to tail off over the next few years, as just about every smartphone user has already installed the app.

Instagram Stats


In 2015, it appears as though teenagers believe Instagram is more important than Facebook and Twitter, indicating just how popular and mainstream it has become. Facebook has decline in perceived importance in just 2 years, falling from a leading 33$ to 14%.

If you’re wondering what the most Liked picture on Instagram of all time is, it’s a photo of 19-year old model Kendall Jenner, half sister to Kim Kardashian. The photo managed 2.5 million likes in just 5 weeks, beating previous record held by Kim whose wedding photo received 2.4 million Likes.

Instagram - Kendall Jenner
The most Liked Instagram picture of all time. Oh dear…



Even though Instagram hasn’t really changed the world in a political sense, or been as much of a tool for citizen journalists as Facebook has in revolutions in the Arab world, it has certainly changed the way we share pictures and communicate with our friends and family.

As our smartphones have increasingly better cameras and capabilities, more people than ever are taking pictures and documenting their life visually. A picture paints a thousand words they say, and for that reason Instagram certainly has had a huge impact on the lives of millions.


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