Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Instagram Pushes Photos to Developers With New API

Instagram today released an API so developers can extend and incorporate its fast-growing photo-sharing service into their own products. Companies like Foodspotting,, Dropbox, Momento, Flipboard and are already using the API, and some 2,000 developers have signed up as well.

APIs (application programming interfaces) are a sort of must-have accessory for young start-ups, even though they seem a bit presumptuous before a product really takes off. Instagram competitor PicPlz just released an API on Feb. 7, and that evening Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom took to the company blog to promise that he’d have one very soon.

The Instagram API is different from others, Systrom said today, because it’s built as to push out updates rather than wait for developers to pull them in. Developers can subscribe to a specific user, tag or location to get every new photo associated with it as soon as they come through.

The real-time concept is similar to Twitter’s user streams, an overhaul of the message-sharing service’s APIs that launched last year and made third-party clients like TweetDeck much quicker and more reliable.

Instagram has accumulated more than 2 million users since launching in October, but so far it only has an iPhone app and limited Web access.

Systrom said he hopes to see developers create an Instagram experience for the iPad, and for browsing photos on the Web (there’s already an effort on that front called Insta-great, and Instagram made a demo site that live-updates with new geo-tagged photos (pictured above)).

I asked Systrom what would happen if a developer were to build something that Instagram then wants to make part of its own product down the line (say, an iPad app). Given that Instagram is sort of a photo version of Twitter–a company that continues to clumsily alienate its developer ecosystem–you could imagine it might have parallel conflicts with developers if the service does end up getting huge.

Systrom said he doesn’t have that stuff figured out yet. “I’m not sure what would happen,” he said, but said he does have some clarity around Instagram’s short-term roadmap. “We’ve stated pretty clearly we’re going to work on Android and the Web.”

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik