One of Instagram‘s two co-founders, Michael Krieger, was interviewed on Saturday, March 26, 2016 on The New Yorker Radio Hour on WNYC, the NPR station in New York. In just 17 minutes, he and the interviewer, Nicholas Thompson, who is the editor of newyorker.com, covered a remarkable amount of valuable territory about the origin, operations and philosophy of Instagram.
Here is the link to the podcast entitled How Instagram Took Over the World. I highly recommend listening to it in its entirety. There is much to learned from the very insightful Mr. Krieger about the constantly changing world of startups. My admiration and gratitude to both him and Mr. Thompson for such a lively and engaging presentation.
Here is a brief summary of the subjects covered in the order they were discussed:
- Instagram originally began as an app called “Burbn”. It was not being used much at the time, but its photo-posting feature immediately drew the most interest of its initial users. The knowledge gained from the experience with Burbn became the foundation upon which Instagram was later built.¹
- The co-founders’ key concerns all along have been ease-of-use in getting photos uploaded as quickly as possible and making them look good with the available filters and features.
- When Instagram first launched, it very quickly gained an international audience. It generated early excitement because there were no language barriers in following other users. One of the initial and inspiring experiences of early users was following and supporting the rescue efforts after the 2011 tsunami in Japan.
- At first, the co-founders were completely focused upon building the app’s infrastructure.
- The media initially perceived the app as “something for hipsters”. In fact, a wide diversity of users was genuinely connecting with each other.
- The co-founders needed to become well versed in copyright matters, as the users, not Instagram, own their photos. This included the provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
- Facebook purchased Instagram for approximately $1 billion in 2012. ² While FB’s philosophy is generally to get new projects implemented quickly online, Instagram prefers to take more time with their new upgrades and features to make certain they are done right.
- Instagram has always been a “cohesive experience for users”.
- Instagram has “changed the world” insofar as people “have a desire to tell stories”, and the app and others like it are “immediate and visceral”. Essentially, it enables users to “bring others into the moment”.
- The ease-of-use of the app in getting photos uploaded quickly also permits users to “get back into your life” rather than taking too much time with the technology. In effect, taking more time to directly view and experience what a user has photographed after the photos have been easily uploaded and the phone put aside.
- Both of Instagram’s founders, Michael Krieger and Kevin Systrom, have always gotten along well during the 6-year history of their company. Their respective skills in business and technology have always complemented each other.
- The founders have always maintained two guiding principles in their work:
- Do the simple things first.
- In terms of craft and design, do fewer things better.
- The biggest challenge for startups today is getting noticed as marketing and distribution have become more difficult.
1. For the full details on this story, see an article published in The Atlantic entitled Instagram Was First Called ‘Burbn’, June 2014, by Megan Garber.
2. The Wall Street Journal’s coverage, as just one representative news media source among, appeared in an article published on April 10, 2012, entitled Insta-Rich: $1 Billion for Instagram, by Shayndi Raice and Spencer E. Ante.