In 2012 it was announced that Facebook had just bought Instagram, a 13 person start-up photo sharing app with 30 million users. People weren't super happy about it. The users were afraid of change in the Instagram community as well, fear of monetisation and Facebook meddling with the app.
Then things went quiet. Instagram ticked along as per normal without any major interferences for another year. Sure a few filter updates, the ability to pin an image to a map - these updates enriched the Instagram community and experience. The app became more reliable, there were small updates and features shipping all the time but no huge tweaks in the user interface or how the content displayed.
And so for a year, Instagram ticked along, supported by Facebook's ability to drive huge acquisition and jumped from 10 million users to 100 million users in 1.2 years. In June 2013 Instagram Videos was launched and well received. In late 2013 Direct Messages launched shortly followed by Sponsored Photos and Videos... and there it was.
Instagram had been monetised and the users did not like it. The news was closely followed by outrage ("They are just going to ruin it like Facebook" etc etc) at the same time as brands rejoiced, eager to jump on board social media. Things happened slowly, throughout the next few months Instagram introduced sponsored content to it's community country by country. Working very closely with media partners and advertisers with high quality, purpose built content, the introduction of sponsored content wasn't too bad.
Sponsored content on Instagram launched in Australia in 2014 but didn't open up to all publishers until April 2015. The frequency of sponsored content wasn't too bad, and the timeline was still chronological so you knew you were seeing all your friends content as it was posted.
Every now and then you'd see a cute McDonalds post, maybe a styled home shot courtesy of Domain or some Vegemite on toast. Fine.
Mid 2015 allowed any business like the milk bar down the road to be able to purchase an Instagram ad. When done right, these are effective but a lot of brands did not put care into their content and bad intrusive ads have swamped the channel.
This experience was made much worse when Instagram announced what felt like the biggest controversial update - changing from a chronological timeline to an algorithm based newsfeed in June 2016 (which closely followed a re-brand). It felt one step too close to a 'Facebook' type channel and for the first time, Instagram felt like it was loosing what made it so great. The community.
Since then it feels like the updated and new product features are disrupting the original Instagram experience more and more.
The channel is filled with bots commenting rubbish like "Nice shot!" and "Cool Pic. Follow4follow". The algorithm has ensured people see at least 3-4 sponsored posts every sessions which can mean they loose seeing a friends breakfast and the inspiring sense of creative community that once made Instagram great is fading. If we see another 'Awesome Shot. Follow4Follow' comment... oh boy.
In August 2016 Instagram announced Instagram Stories, which is okay although was a direct rip of Snapchat, so no points for creativity there. Last week, Instagram Slideshows were announced, where a user can upload up to 10 videos or photos per post. One of the great things about Instagram was the creativity driven by need to be selective, with feeds curated to have a diverse, inspirational feel. As a user, we're mad. But we still spend time there. As a brand, with 400 million active users, it's still the place to be.
So, what's next Instagram? Farmville?