Instagram announced yesterday that it crossed a whopping 700 million users. That’s fantastic, especially when you consider that it signed up 100 million people in just five months. For reference, Snapchat counted just over 161 million users as of February, since it launched nearly five years ago.
I’m not huge on social media, but over the past few months, I’ve begun to understand why Instagram is popular: it’s getting a lot of things right in terms of functionality and user experience, and it has plenty of great content that’s easy to discover.
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In that time, it’s also become the most used app on my phone. Not only do I enjoy browsing and upload posts as a photographer, but I also love using it for things like messaging.
That’s right, messaging. Because its content is so easy to consume and its interface is immaculately tuned, I find myself sharing posts with friends way more often through Instagram than on services like WhatsApp and Messenger.
I didn’t think much of Instagram’s messaging functionality when it got an upgrade in 2015, but it’s great for casual chats that my contacts know aren’t about important matters.
For instance, a friend introduced me to a pal of his in a group conversation so we could share our love for watches on the regular – with all the convenience of being able to find and share watch pics from brands and bloggers we follow, and none of the urgency of a WhatsApp notification.
I never thought I’d say this, but I shop a lot through Instagram nowadays. A lot of slick new clothing, home decor and lifestyle brands in India use the platform to market their wares, and their ads – practically indistinguishable from normal posts – don’t feel intrusive.
Plus, the new Collections feature for saved items makes it easy to curate stuff I want to buy later. The other thing I like to do is look up similar accounts by tapping the arrow button on brands’ profiles to discover more things to buy. Sure, I’m broke now, but at least my wardrobe and apartment look a lot better for it than before.
By the same token, I’ve also found plenty of local events, workshops, bars and restaurants in my city that I hadn’t heard of before. Perhaps they’re making noise on other social platforms too, but Instagram is where I’m happy to pay them some attention.
There’s not all: I love stumbling upon recipes from the likes of BuzzFeed’s Tasty, Tastemade Japan and The New York Times, and my collection for them on the app is like a beautiful cookbook. And whenever I travel, I make sure to search for places of interest in the destinations I’m headed to, in order to plan my itinerary. It’s perhaps the quickest way to spot things I want to see in those cities and towns.
Ephemeral messaging for old timers
I didn’t take to Snapchat for ages after it launched on Android for a variety of reasons: I didn’t know many people on it, I couldn’t make head or tail of the interface, and I didn’t care to use stickers and masks, or even share content that I wouldn’t ever be able to retrieve later.
Instagram’s Stories seems to have improved on that concept and made it far more accessible and easier to use. I still don’t broadcast anything live, but I enjoy flipping through others’ stories (especially bands and photographers on documentary assignments) because I know how to get in and out of there without any fuss. Snapchat, on the other hand, always made me feel like I had either get with the program or move along.
It also doesn’t hurt that Instagram hosts a massive community of talented creators who share their photography, art and video works on the platform. That makes for a great way to lose yourself in wonderful imagery whenever you’ve got a few minutes or several to spare.
All in all, Instagram feels like an app that works the way I want it to, while offering plenty of quality content that’s worth my time. I suspect that 700 million more people feel the same way; clearly, the team behind it is doing something right.