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This article was published on April 18, 2012

This developer won’t quit until he has built the best version of Instagram for the web

This developer won’t quit until he has built the best version of Instagram for the web
Drew Olanoff
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Drew Olanoff

Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

Good things come to those who wait, as we learned with Instagram’s massive Android success. For those of us who still use laptop and desktop computers (crazy, right?), there still isn’t an official way to brose the beautiful photos on Instagram, other than one at a time.

For developer Brenden Mulligan this has been an persistently annoying issue, one that he’s taken quite a bit of time trying to solve himself. We told you about Mulligan’s work last December when he launched a service called PhotoPile, which was a pretty genius way of displaying your Instagram profile on the web. At the time, I claimed that he nailed what Instagram profiles should look like on the web.

Mulligan wasn’t finished though and has taken things a step further by launching an app called Webbygram, which is a web version of Instagram using its API. For me, I enjoy seeing photos on a larger screen, especially when they have as much detail as the filtered ones in my Instagram feed.

With Facebook purchasing Instagram in a fit of being hot-and-bothered in the mobile space, it doesn’t seem like a web verion of Instagram is in its roadmap, so Webbygram has come to save the day.

Simplicity at its finest

Why is Mulligan so obsessed with cracking the Instagram-on-the-web nut? Here’s a bit of his thinking process from his blog post announcing Webbygram:

Instagram is put on a pedestal for being “mobile first”, meaning they launched on mobile before they launched on the web. But that term isn’t “mobile only”. Unfortunately, that’s how Instagram has stayed. They provide some very rough web views of individual photos, but that’s it.

Some would say that Instagram doesn’t need a web presence. I disagree. When I click an Instagram link on Twitter, I want to have a slightly similar experience than I would within the app. I want to be able to like the photo, or comment, or dig deeper and see what other photos that user has posted. I don’t need to be able to change settings, or even see my own home screen. I just want to interact with posted photos.

Path has managed to create a beautiful “mobile first” product with a beautiful accompanying web view. They didn’t port the whole app to the web. They just brought the important interaction points. I brought this up on Twitter the other day.

Webbygram serves all of the purposes described by Mulligan above. Of course, the only thing missing in the web version is the ability to upload photos, something Instagram will probably never expose in a public API. Currently, the only app that can upload photos to Instagram is Hipstamatic, and that was a one-off partnership. I found the site to be extremely easy to navigate, showing the feed of people I follow as the default.

When you click into a photo view, you can interact with it the same way that you can within the Instagram app. Clearly the difference is that you’re doing so on your desktop instead of on a smaller screen:

You’ll also find the addition of pin-it buttons for Pinterest, along with nice and big share buttons for Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to see Google+ added into the mix. The ability to click hashtags that people add to their photos to discover a new stream of content is also a lovely edition that is perfect for a desktop browsing experience.

When it comes to commenting and liking a photo, you’ll also find the same simplicity. The design here is magnificent and it feels like you’re still within the “Instagram Experience” that you find on its mobile apps:

My favorite thing to do on a plane, when there’s WIFI, is scroll through photos. It’s extremely relaxing and I find that during this time I tend to interact with Instagram photos the most. I have a few long trips ahead of me, so being able to have the same experience on my laptop is something that I’m looking forward to.

Mulligan says that he is all-ears when it comes to feedback, so if there’s something missing from the Webbygram experience, you should definitely leave him some feedback here or through the site. This is the reason why APIs are so magical, developers can pick up where a company has decided to drop a ball, and run with it in a way that serves purposes for everyone who wants in on the action.


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