App of the Month: Instagram

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Given the extreme rise of smartphone apps over the last few years, we’re introducing a new feature designed to keep you up to speed with the latest happenings in the lightning-fast mobile world: The App of the Month. Our first program? Instagram. This photo-sharing social application jumped into the nation’s collective consciousness in April when Facebook acquired it for $1 billion. The number seemed staggering; here was founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose company had never made an acquisition for even $100 million (according to available documents), shelling out ten figures for a company that as recently as last December had a relatively scant 15 million users. So what was it about Instagram that made it so attractive?

Instagram is essentially the combination of two services: the ability to snap and edit photographs, and the ability to share those images within a social network comprised of the user’s friends. The app, available free on both iPhone and Android, is incredibly easy to use and very intuitive. Upon downloading, users can take photos from within the app or transfer in their own images from the phone’s native camera. What has made Instagram famous though is the bevy of effects that can then be applied to the image. From the “Inkwell” (black and white) to “Toaster” (turns the image sepia-toned so that it looks old and faded), Instagram images have a unique look to them.

The other half of Instagram is its social network. It operates similar to Twitter with users required to follow one another. A timeline of selected users appears on the home screen, allowing users to keep tabs on the images their friends are uploading and commenting on. While Zuckerberg hasn’t specially announced what Facebook intends to do with Instagram, the photo-sharing network has experienced tremendous growth lately. In May, the Huffington Post reported that Instagram had 50 million users and was growing at a rate of about 5 million per week. With its Facebook partnership, expect to see a lot more of those sepia-toned photos within your online social circle.