Mike Isaac

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After Two Years of “Mobile First,” Instagram Brings Its Feed to the Web

Instagram_web

Think of “mobile first” companies, and Instagram should top that list. It rose to prominence as one of the fastest-growing mobile-only companies over the past few years, and is now closing in on the 100 million active user mark.

Kevin Systrom put it best: “Our focus on building out a mobile-only experience is a unique path that we’ve chosen for many reasons, most important of which is that Instagram, at its core, is about seeing and taking photos on-the-go,” he wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

But now, a little over two years later, the mobile-centric app is beefing up its Web presence.

Instagram announced on Tuesday that users can now view their stream feed of photos from the Web, which includes all those being uploaded by the people they follow on the service.

Pretty straightforward, in that in the past two years you were only able to see your real-time stream flow in through the company’s Android or iOS apps. Instagram recently debuted user profiles on the Web, but users still weren’t able to watch their flow of photos come in from their friends. It was more of a repository for your own imagery.

Strange, considering the trajectory of many companies is to focus on mobile, right? Especially considering that Instagram’s owner, Facebook, is all about mobile these days.

Well, for one, Instagram hosting its feed on the Web allows users of other, non iPhone or Android devices — like, say, tablet owners or perhaps Windows Phone or (gasp!) BlackBerry users — to view the real-time stream from their own handsets. That may alleviate some of the pressure the small team at Instagram faces from other companies to develop for other platforms.

At the same time, it also opens up Instagram for some potential to play around with what we all know is coming: Advertising. As we’ve known for a while, Instagram has been highly successful in terms of growth, but it cost Facebook nearly three-quarters-of-a-billion bucks, and needs to monetize somehow. So with the added distribution a Web view offers, Instagram can spread its eventual ad reach to other platforms.

That’s a nice way to sell to any ad folks that aren’t satisfied with just Android and iOS reach (though obviously that’s still the lions’ share of the smartphone market). Think of all the feature phones to be served!

It’s also worth noting that you can’t upload pictures to Instagram from the new Web feed. “We do not offer the ability to upload from the web as Instagram is about producing photos on the go, in the real world, in realtime,” Systrom wrote.

What does that tell us? The new Web feed is about consumption, not production. Again, this increases the app’s reach, while ensuring that the service isn’t instantly inundated with a flood of crummy jpegs leeched from the Web. (Folks can still “hack” Instagram by uploading non-mobile jpegs from their phone, but that’s a lot of effort and not exactly a massive problem for the service.)

The new feed should be rolling out shortly. Welcome aboard, newbies.


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