August 21, 2020

Systrom’s Vision for Instagram

This week I began reading the highly entertaining No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier. Sarah writes about Kevin Systrom’s approach to designing and building Instagram.

The biggest was community first,” meaning all their decisions should be centered around preserving a good feeling when using Instagram, not necessarily a more fast-growing business. Too many notifications would violate that principle. Then there was simplicity matters,” meaning that before any new products could roll out, engineers had to think about whether they were solving a specific user problem, and whether making a change was even necessary, or might overcomplicate the app. It was the opposite of Facebook’s move fast and break things,” where building for growth was valued over usefulness or trust. There was also inspire creativity,” which meant Instagram was going to try to frame the app as an artistic outlet, training its own users and highlighting the best of them through an editorial strategy, focusing on content that was genuine and meaningful.

It’s clear today that these early values, especially simplicity matters,” are lost. Instagram is a confusing mess. There are 3 camera flows each with their own interfaces, features, and content placement.

The book also includes several passages discussing Systrom’s refusal to build a regram” button that would allow me to post others’ photos to my feed similar to a retweet” button on Twitter and a reblog” button on Tumblr. He believed Instagram should be a place for expression and creativity; not viral content. This button does not exist today, but sharing others’ photos and videos to Instagram Stories is possible. This functionality means my Stories are filled with impersonal nonsense.

I continue to look forward to either a new photo sharing social network, or Unsplash finally building out their social features.

Book