If you’ve used the Internet in the last few years, you must’ve heard about social media. If so, there’s a strong possibility Instagram was mentioned as one of the best social media websites out there. Social media are attractive for many reasons, but the primary reason is communication. As we’ll explain in-depth below, staying in touch with people you care about has an equal place on the platform as building business connections. If knowing two benefits that aren’t mutually exclusive piqued your interest, it’s time to get to the meat of the story. Here’s an answer to your question – what is Instagram and why you should care.
History of Instagram and how it developed
So, what is the definition of Instagram? Instagram is a free online social networking service primarily available for smart devices using Android, iOS, and iPad operating systems. Its primary function is sharing photos and videos to your personal profile or a business/personal page. As time went on, it became available in the Internet browsers as well as an app on the Windows Store for Windows 10, and, in the past, for Windows Phones.
How did Instagram start?
Believe it or not, when it was founded, Instagram only had the barebones functionality it has today, and fit into a different niche altogether. When it was launched on October 6, 2010, by co-founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, Instagram only worked on iOS devices. Its only functionality had to do with photo editing. To be more precise, applying filters to photos, some of which remain to this day, without technical knowledge. It was so popular that within 2 months, it had more than 1 million users. After a year has passed, the number of Instagram users climbed to 10 million.
What was the first aspect ratio of photos on Instagram?
Between 2012 and 2015, Instagram only allowed square photos with a maximum resolution of 640 x 640 pixels. The 1:1 aspect ratio remained past 2015 but the resolution had an increase to 1080 x 1080 pixels. Eventually, the platform adopted a rectangle aspect ratio to fit the aspect ratio of screens on modern devices such as 21:9, 16:9, and even 4:3.
When did Instagram take the shape we know today?
Facebook, the first social media, acquired Instagram in April 2012 for $1 billion in stock and cash. An Android app rolled out in November 2012, with the addition of new features. This got the ball rolling, but most people consider the year 2016 as the breaking point. That’s when Facebook implemented private messages, sharing of videos (post, story, direct message), and going live on Instagram. Perhaps the best know change was moving from having 5 pictures in a row to only 3, which remains to this day. It’s also important to know that the co-founders resigned from Instagram in late September 2018. Just a few months prior, in June 2018, Instagram reached 1 billion users.
In 2021, Instagram’s graphical user interface (GUI) has 4 distinctive elements, 3 of which are on the Home page.
The menu at the top contains shortcut options such as Home, Direct Messages, Explore, Follow Requests/Notifications, and Profile. Below that are Stories, listed in one row. If a person you follow is live streaming on Instagram, their profile picture will also be shown in the Stories row and be moved to the front of the list. Finally, you have posts from profiles/pages you follow, displayed one at a time with the Infinite Scrolling enabled.
Your profile page has 4 key categories:
- Posts. The photos or videos you shared.
- IGTV. The long-form video (1 to 60 minutes) content you posted.
- Saved. Posts you “bookmarked” and only you can see.
- Tagged. Posts your profile/page was tagged in.
Key components of Instagram
Here are a few pivotal things that make Instagram what it is:
Public, private, verified, and business profiles
Instagram profiles are split into these categories:
- Public. Everyone can see the entirety of the profile and choose to follow you.
- Private. Only those you approve can follow you and get access to your profile.
- Verified. They issue Verified badges to profiles with large public or online presence, or those in danger of being impersonated. You can recognize them as blue badges with a white checkmark.
- Business. Pages dedicated to brands, artists, entrepreneurs, etc.
Instagram “worked” on likes in the past. Profiles in the Explore page were based on it, you could see an exact number of likes on a post and who liked it, and Instagram’s friend suggestion algorithm relied on it. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of comparisons with people seemingly leading perfect lives. This caused feelings of insecurity and inadequacy in millions of users, which is one of the disadvantages of social media. For that reason, they’ve discontinued this feature in September 2020.
Direct Messages (DMs)
This is the direct consequence of Facebook’s acquisition. Just like on Twitter, you can send private messages to other Instagram accounts. Unlike WhatsApp or Viber, no encryption is deployed.
Hashtags and geographical tags
Both serve the same purpose. They allow you to either find posts or have your posts found based on a hashtag or location tag relevant to your photo. This can bring an influx of new followers across the world, especially if the tag you used becomes trending.
While Stories expire within 24 hours, you can save your stories to Story Highlights since December 2017. They remain accessible to you and your followers on your Profile permanently, unless deleted manually.
Since Facebook owns both platforms, they’ve begun merging them in a way. For example, you can use your Facebook account to sign up for Instagram and control it that way. Consequently, this is ideal for businesses that need to maintain a social media presence. Also, by using Instagram Direct Messenger, you can send or receive direct messages on Instagram and Facebook simultaneously.
To help you cater your content and continuously grow, the platform provides detailed analytics of your posts, stories, and live streams. This includes the total number of views, comments, or direct answers, increase in followers, percentage of engagement, the average age of your audience, etc.
Are there age restrictions for Instagram?
Only people aged 13 and older can use Instagram. This requirement falls under country laws, so, for example, in Ireland, you must 16 and older to create an Instagram account. Also, the platform was very lax with nudity and explicit content in the past. In 2021, because they have a massive number of advertisers, Instagram implemented strict rules about the type of content uploaded to the platform. The difference is stark, and much like YouTube, they are turning into a family-friendly platform.
Most popular Instagram accounts
On the date we published this post, 5 Instagram accounts with the biggest number of followers were:
- Instagram (@instagram) – 386 million
- Cristiano Ronaldo (@cristiano) – 261 million
- Ariana Grande (@arianagrande) – 220 million
- Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson” (@therock) – 216 million
- Kylie Jenner (@kyliejenner) – 214 million