Personal Takeaways from Instagram’s Wild Ride
I’m very impressed by what these guys have built in such a short period of time. I’m still processing, but some quick takeaways.
1) Identity projection drives behaviour and adoption
Few products with networked ambitions have a great zero use case. Instagram truly did. Even without the graph they are developing, users gained utility by sharing their photos through other channels, in ways that made them seem/feel artistic, romantic, nostalgic, etc. It helped people project a certain type of identity, in a certain way, to certain communities that were important to them.
2) Networks of highly engaged users have great value
This should seem obvious, but the chorus of ‘but they have not business model!’ is still there. There are many types of value. Ultimately these have to convert to financial value but for products like Instagram, pushing revenue too early would have been a huge mistake.
3) UI is a powerful tool
I’m going to use UI here instead of the more fashionable UX because I feel the interaction details in Instagram are what separates it from others. From constraining choices (landing page, photo numbers) to understanding app response (perceived and real), it’s the fine UI details that make Instagram work.
4) We have new definitions of startup scale
A rumoured $1B with (approx) 13 employees is an example of ridiculous leverage. With emerging tools and frameworks, scaling platforms, and outsourcing options, we will see a $1B company with under 10 people soon.
5) There’s massive mobile green space
Instagram was a threat/opportunity combo, not only to Facebook, but also Google, Apple, and maybe others. Why? Because they’re one of the first breakout platforms that are truly mobile first. This is a different beast. We’re only seeing the beginning of mobile-first solutions challenging their web counterparts.
Many congrats to a talented and deserving team.