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Instagram is a location-based social network mobile application for sharing photos and videos. This service allows users to apply digital filters and share their photos and videos on other social networks and social media platforms. The service was founded by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger in San Francisco, California, and officially launched exclusively for the iPhone on October 6, 2010. The original name of the application was Burbn, which aimed to combine several characteristics of popular social media services like Foursquare. When Krieger joined the project, the two programmers decided to focus exclusively on photo sharing.
Instagram is a combination of “instant camera” and “telegram.” Systrom and Krieger wanted to relive the nostalgia of snapshots popularized by Polaroid and Kodak Instamatic, in a digital format. The photos uploaded to the mobile application are converted to a square shape, different from the 4:3 aspect ratio used by mobile device cameras. In addition to this distinctive feature, users can apply different manipulation tools to alter images. Instagram offers 20 filters that transform the lighting and tone of the photographs.
Users can follow other users’ feeds, “like” and comment on images, and connect their Instagram account to other social networking sites and share photos. Instagram has an embedded feature that is location based, which enables users to add geolocated data to their content. Adding geographical identification metadata on Instagram attaches economic and social value to the content because it makes it more searchable. In January 2011, the service added hashtags as a new feature, following the trend of Twitter. Instagram encourages users to use specific and relevant tags in order to discover photos and other users on the platform. Hashtags also contributed to the creation of several communities of interest, and to the large-scale dissemination of photographs. Web profiles were created in 2012, allowing users to use their account like a social network Web site. Instagram has gone from a location-based social photo-sharing application to a location-based social network application. In June 2013, Instagram added a new feature for sharing 15-second videos. In August 2014, Instagram released Hyperlapse. This new application enables users to create time-lapse videos.
The platform reached 1 million users in December 2010. In June 2011, Instagram’s users were already 5 million, and that number doubled in September of that year. The company revealed that 150 million photographs had been uploaded to its service as of August 2011. Facebook acquired the service in April 2012 and announced that more than 30 million accounts have been set up on Instagram. In the summer of 2014, the statistics of the platform revealed 200 million active users (65 percent from outside the United States), 20 billion photos shared, 1.6 billion “likes” per day, and an average of 60 million photos uploaded daily. The statistics also show that 68 percent of Instagram’s users are women and that the accounts are equally divided, with 50-percent iPhone owners and 50-percent Android owners.
Content contribution and collaboration by the members is critical to the viability of Instagram. Several studies argue that users’ motivations to cocreate can be individual and related to the network structure. Users who are structurally embedded have a high number of ties to others in a network and are likely to have a greater level of sharing. Commitment, self-development, and reputation are individual motivations correlated to photo sharing.
The economics of sharing photos is based on the collective intelligence of consumers and the idea that the consumer is a cocreator of value, an active agent and a resource. Instagram promotes mass collaboration through user-generated content. As cocreation is a social process based on collaboration and interaction between people, sharing photos involves users in the creation of value through thematic communities and network ties.
Companies use Instagram not only to encourage users to share photos but also to create engagement with brands, generate traffic to Web sites, establish a visual image for products and services, index content via hashtags, create interactive campaigns with hashtags, and promote competition. The MTV television channel uses Instagram to present the backstage of its programs. Nike uses Instagram to show pictures of people exercising with its brand products. The profile of Starbucks publishes pictures tagged by fans through hashtags.
Politicians use Instagram to reach out to voters in a more personal way through photos and videos. President Barack Obama has 4 million followers and a “Thank you” photo on election night with 294 thousand likes. Many celebrities share photos and videos of their personal and professional lives with fans. The media use Instagram to promote closer ties with their audiences and to disseminate visual content. Photographers, anonymous citizens, and civic organizations also use Instagram to publicize photos, communicate with friends, and promote causes. Gramforacause and Gramming for Good are startups that use Instagram to connect photographers with nonprofits and help spread social and environmental causes through photography.
In some countries, Instagram is already showing ads in the feeds of users. The advertising on the platform will be gradual and will present sponsored publications.
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