There are some advantages to isolationism. You can build and preserve culture. You don’t get entangled in world wars. And, maybe most of all: You become intriguing. Who wouldn’t want the chance to (safely) explore North Korea from sheer novelty factor alone?
Today, Instagram finally moved users feeds—formerly only available on phones—to web browsers. We can now all explore and share Instagram freely online, with no limitations beyond that you can’t upload photos. No doubt, some will label the decision silly or pointless. But really, Instagram is just doing what all big deal superpowers do and joining the rest of the world.
Red Bull started as a drink you could only get in clubs. Facebook required a university account. In both cases, exclusivity helped these brands grow. And it’s the same model that proved successful for Instagram. Just as Red Bull didn’t pick a fight with Coca Cola in the grocery store’s soda aisle, so too did Instagram carve out their isolationist niche, just a step away from Twitter and Facebook. The message at launch was simple: Anyone can use Instagram, so long as they own an iPhone.
But when you reach 80 million users and you’re bought for $715 million by Facebook, there’s no pretending that some red velvet rope means anything anymore. So Instagram goes public, in a sense.
Why now? No country can survive very long without global trade agreements, and no platform survive without interconnectivity. It’s hard to say Instagram "needs" anything, but it’s also impossible to argue that social sharing is marketing and it is value, and as of yesterday, Instagram had its own potent virus virtually quarantined in a mobile app. It just so happens, mobiles are a great place to be—Facebook just announced they have more mobile traffic now than web traffic—but that doesn’t mean Instagram shouldn’t pursue the low hanging fruit left on the larger web.
There’s also an interesting opportunity for Instagram, now that its UI has been liberated from 4-inch screens. A few months back, they introduced beautiful, tiled user profiles on the web. With more screen real estate, the question becomes, could Instagram be something evolved for desktops? Could it be richer or more complex, yet use design to ground all of this in Instagram’s spartan simplicity? I hope so, if only because Instagram’s information attenuation, this presentation of one small photo at a time, doesn’t quite scale to my large laptop screen. I want more, and I want more Instagram, I guess.
[Image: Arrows via Shutterstock]