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This article was published on February 24, 2011

Instagram opens a realtime API for a “more connected and transparent world”

Instagram opens a realtime API for a “more connected and transparent world”
Courtney Boyd Myers
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Courtney Boyd Myers

Courtney Boyd Myers is the founder of, a transatlantic company designed to help New York and London based technology startups gr Courtney Boyd Myers is the founder of, a transatlantic company designed to help New York and London based technology startups grow internationally. Previously, she was the Features Editor and East Coast Editor of TNW covering New York City startups and digital innovation. She loves magnets + reading on a Kindle. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter @CBM and .

For Instagram users and eager iPhone app developers, the wait for the famous photo sharing app’s open API is finally over. Today, Instagram officially announces its open API that supports a new kind of interaction around photos: realtime sharing.

We don’t sleep very often these days – it’s not out of necessity, it’s just out of a love for doing what we’re doing. We’re excited to bring this new API to folks to see what really cool and useful stuff they’ll build.

-Instagram Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom.

What does the new API mean for developers?

Developers will be able to use the API to subscribe to new photos from four different points:

1) Instagram Users: every time a user posts a photo, the developer’s application will receive a notification.

2) Tags: An application can track a given tag and receive updates every time a new photo is posted with a given tag. (Instagram notes that only a small portion of its photos are geotagged today.)

3) Locations: Every time a new photo is geo-tagged with a specific location, the developer will receive a notification.

4) Geographies: Sometimes individual locations are too specific. For these cases, we suggest subscribing to Geographies. Geographies consist of a latitude and longitude and a radius. This allows developers to subscribe to a given area like Austin or a specific city block of Manhattan. Instagram has subscribed to 20 or so geographies of major cities around the world.

Here’s a demo Instagram cooked up for what a possible realtime web interface based on geographic location could look like:

“Now that we’re done with V1 of the API, it’s time to listen to feedback from developers and figure out ways of improving the API going forward,” says Systrom.

Instagram hopes to integrate with a number of different websites and services, but today they are launching with three top choices- Foodspotting, The Fancy and Dropbox.

After linking your accounts, here’s how it works: Use the hashtag “#food” and the picture will be cross-posted on your Foodspotting account. Tag a photo with #thefancy and the picture will appear on your The Fancy account. Check out the Dropbox “Instadrop” integration here. The open-source website doesn’t live with Instagram, nor does it live with Dropbox, which means that any motivated developer can take the code and create new sharing possibilities.

Developers that use next-gen servers like Tornado and Node.js can create live experiences to browse what’s happening on Instagram – and throughout the world. Their code is open-sourced and developers can see how to integrate live photos into their site here.

In addition, Momento, a popular personal app is launching a new version of its app with Instagram integration so users can import their entire Instagram feed and browse posts day by day since their first photo.

Flipboard and are also working with the Instagram API to explore new ways to view and interact with Instagram images. “While we’re not quite ready to talk about it,” writes Systrom, “All we can say is that it’s very cool, and we believe it’s a superlative experience for Instagram and Flipboard users.”

While there is no official Instagram web interface yet, Systrom says they are excited to build one. For now, check out the Japanese site, which provides an easy way to browse Instagram’s most popular photos. On another Japanese site webstagram, users can follow/unfollow, like and comment just like you can within the app.

And for Android users? While Instagram says they are “excited to encourage innovation on all platforms with the API,” there’s nothing to announce about their internal plans yet.

The benefits of photo sharing in the future include being able to consume events all around the world — whether it’s your best friend’s birthday, or a riot halfway around the world. We want to encourage a more connected and transparent world. -Instagram Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom.

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