While Instagram is a widely known and used social media app, the humble origins of the platform are not common knowledge for most of its users. Before Instagram existed, there was an app called “Burbn.” It served a much different purpose than what it would eventually become. Burbn was more of a location check-in app that allowed users to add pictures and plan meet-ups, according to the Atlantic. There were a lot of features in this proto-Instagram app, which for most users made it completely overwhelming.
The original developer of Burbn, Kevin Systrom, seeing that the app was not popular, decided to make sweeping changes to its functionality. He took data he collected from users and determined that people seemed to most enjoy the photo-sharing features, often ignoring the check-in features entirely. With this in mind, Systrom and developers began to revamp the app, eventually leading to it becoming one of the most successful social media platforms of all time.
The beginning of Instagram
As Burbn’s features became limited to solely picture sharing, Systrom introduced filters to help people make their photos look better (via Equalman). This proved to be an extremely attractive addition to users, and people began flocking to the app, which was renamed Instagram. In 2012, just two years after Instagram’s release, the platform had attrached 50 million users, according to Tech Crunch.
The same year, Systrom and Instagram’s developers made the decision to sell the app to Facebook for $1 billion, the company’s largest acquisition at the time (via Dealbook). Since then, Instagram’s popularity skyrocketed, reaching a billion users by 2018. This makes it one of the most popular social media apps to date, despite its rocky start. Many new features have also been added in that time that have been successful, including Stories, direct messaging, and carousel posts with multiple images. Coming full circle back to Burbn, Instagram eventually added the ability to tag photo locations. Although Burbn, the seedling of what would be Instagram, initially spelled failure for Systrom and his developers, their keen use of data led them to enormous success.