Mike Isaac

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After Reports of User Revolt, Instagram Releases Monthly Active User Data for the First Time

InstagramAfter weeks of accusations that Instagram has seen a sharp drop in its user numbers, the photo-sharing service released new data that gives better insight into the actual number of people using the service on a regular basis.

At last count, more than 90 million people use Instagram on a monthly basis, the company said on Thursday. Moreover, the company is seeing growth rather than decline; that number is up ten percent, month on month, in the period from December to January.

“Instagram continues to see very strong growth around the world,” Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom told AllThingsD. “With many of the product and internationalization improvements we’ve made, we’ve been excited to see these efforts resonate with users globally.”

Wait, what? Haven’t we spent the last month seeing reports from the New York Post and other outlets, citing the decline of Instagram’s active user base?

Yes, we have. But as with many things about third-party analytics, it’s complicated.

For one, many reports cited Instagram’s decline in daily active users, which is more apt to fluctuate wildly on a day-by-day basis. (I and others don’t use Instagram every day, so I can see sharp drops and rises in that number being a reasonable argument for its fluctuation.) And there’s the possibility that the holiday season could have caused many to drop off using the service on the regular.

But perhaps more importantly, the analytics services used — such as App Data — only measure Instagram activity connected to users’ Facebook accounts. Seeing as the vast majority of Instagram users don’t connect their accounts to Facebook, it’s not a solid indicator of how many people are using the service at a given time.

There’s a reason many were quick to check up on Instagram’s user data. All eyes turned to App Data and measurement services after Instagram proposed in December a spate of changes to its Terms of Service agreement, which involved an eventual monetization of the product. The language used freaked people out, making many think Instagram would begin to run user photos inside of paid ads on the network.

In the wake of the controversy, many members of the tech media and photography and artist communities swore off using Instagram going forward, feeling violated by the potential monetization of their personal images.

But according to Instagram’s post on Thursday, that hasn’t stopped overall interest in using the service.

Something to note: I do wish Instagram would give out the daily active user count along with the MAU count it presented on Thursday. That would at least give us a clearer picture into which days the company saw a drop in user activity, and why. Alas, I can’t always get what I want.

You may flinch when you see the new 90 million number compared to the 100 million user milestone the company announced in September of last year. But again, that’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Since the company’s inception, Instagram has only released its registered user number publicly, while choosing not to disclose active user numbers.

I’m not sure why it took Instagram so long to start going by the industry-wide metric of monthly active users, but it sure is about time.

Shares of Facebook were trading up .23 percent in after-hours, at $30.14.

Updated 1:14 p.m. with more reasoning behind December drop in DAU numbers.


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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