I really love using Instagram — use it every week to take, process & share photos, use it a lot with my wife to share what we’re up to, etc.
But as I was using it tonight, I realized that I’m using it in a decidedly anti-social way — which is a really stark contrast to how I live practically every other part of my online life — in general I live pretty much in the open on my blog, Tumblr, Twitter, etc etc.
So I thought it would be worth a quick explanation.
One of my working theories about mobile apps is that to get any real adoption, the app has to be on your home screen (and mostly not in a folder). People use apps on 2nd & 3rd screens, but not that many, I think — I think usage of apps on the home screen probably completely dominates usage of all other apps. But there are only 20 slots on the home screen, and a bunch of those are already populated by things like your e-mail, SMS, phone, calendar, Safari, etc. So there’s a working set of maybe 4 or 5 slots for completely novel apps (for me the most important are Tweetbot, Facebook, Tumblr, Read It Later, Things & Kindle). For all other apps, they’ve got to replace an app (and its functionality) that already has a spot.
Instagram, for me, replaced the camera app a long time ago, initially because of filters, but over time because it let me share pictures with my family and friends really easily.
But over the summer, I realized a pretty serious problem: my follower count was rising, and I was taking more and more pictures with Instagram — the problem was that the photos were of my family vacation, so were both pretty personal in nature, and were also like a big advertisement that our house back in the Bay Area was unattended.
I still wanted the sharing & filters & streams, though, so ended up making my stream closed, instead of open. I uninvited everyone I didn’t know and started building up the access list from scratch. Now I’ve got a relatively small, private set of followers, and it works well enough.
But it sort of turns the model inside out a little bit, since Instagram is really built for sharing. Instead, I’m using it more like a private repository, then sharing out pictures to other networks like Facebook, Tumblr & Twitter when I want to share them broadly. But back to my apps-on-home-screen theory, the only way that Instagram can replace my Camera app is if I do it this way, making most of my photos private and only sharing a few.
The main problems are sort of obvious: (1) I share a bunch of things with fewer people than would actually like to share with, (2) it’s hard for me to completely replace the built-in Camera app right now, and (3) it actually just feels pretty unfriendly when I do share something on Twitter, people click through to see the shared photo and aren’t allowed to follow my stream automatically. (There’s a follow on problem in that I never look at the news feed on my account in the mobile app at all — and so I had hundreds of follower requests right now that have gone ignored for months.)
What I’d really like is the ability to, at minimum, have a private stream and a public stream — I think that would let Instagram completely replace the Camera app for me.
Anyway, that’s why it’s closed for me, and why I may not have turned on access for you — it’s a combo of how the system works and my own neglect of the access list for a while.