Popular photo sharing and processing app Instagram just got a bunch more popular with their addition of a version for Android. Following the release on Tuesday it got a million downloads in the first 12 hours. That’s on top of around 30 million iOS users added in the last 18 months and Apple naming it the best iPhone app of the year for 2011.
Opening up the Android channel could easily double their user base and with a valuation of $500 million based on the upcoming Series B funding led by Sequoia Capital, Instagram will have $50 million to grow with.
Most likely, Microsoft will pony up for a Windows Phone version of the app and there is already a third-party desktop version for Windows called Instagrille. Desktop versions would allows users to be more purposeful and organized about their use of the app.
Why is Instagram so hot? Because it enables a kind of activity that people were not engaging with before it existed. Photo sharing is not new. Flickr has been around since 2004, and even spawned a highly saturated and high-contrast style of photography that became known as the “Flickr look.” Photo processing is not new either. Hipstamatic has been around since 2009, but as a paid app with in-app add-ons.
Here are the three factors that have really made Instagram take off:
Simplicity: Unlike Hipstamatic, which has a very cool prosumer feel, Instagram has kept its product really simple and limited the number of options to keep it that way. Instagram is thoroughly unintimidating and the pleasure to pain ratio is high.
Speed: As reported in my interview with Luke Wroblewski, Instagram has been genius about engineering the experience so that users are unaware that they are ever waiting. This is important because Instagram-ing has become an interstitial activity, we do it in between everything else, and as Instagram founder Mike Krieger says, “Nobody wants to wait while they wait.”
Community: From the beginning the sharing has been as important as the processing features, and the experience there is fast and frictionless as well.
Because Instagram has built a large community quickly, people now recognize it as a distinct stream in their social media feeds. Each cryptic, false-color abstraction that passes by is an invitation to do the same. Each cosmetically blown-out photo of friends makes you think how much better you might look with a little more blur and a little less detail. Multiple channels and cash to expand them all will make these invitations all the more ubiquitous and virally appealing.
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