Instagram at 10: A Thread

7 October 2020

Instagram’s success seems obvious today—it was anything but obvious when it launched.

Here are 10 reads, one from each year, to commemorate the app which became the world’s filter. (It was hard to pick 10.)

2010 The Art of Not by Michael Lopp: “there are exactly zero emails from Instagram in my inbox, and that’s just the beginning of things they are successfully not doing.”

2011 At 5 Million Users, It’s Hard Not To View Instagram Through A Rose-Colored Filter (2011) by M. G. Siegler: “despite their size, Instagram still has only four employees.”

(Employee #3 was the community lead at Instagram, rare for a startup.)

2012 After Facebook buys Instagram, Jack Dorsey posts his last Instagram photo: “A simple morning pleasure: an empty bus.”

2013 The Money Shot by Kara Swisher: “Systrom has declined to crack open and drink the best whiskey he owns—a 100-year-old bottle of Jim Beam—to celebrate his epic win.”

2014 Ways of Seeing Instagram by Ben Davis: “It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Berger’s prediction that Instagram, or other things like it, ‘should replace museums.’”

2015 Five Years of Building Instagram by Mike Krieger: “Kevin guessed 2,500, and in an especially optimistic moment, I went big and guessed 25,000. The next day, the realist in me couldn’t believe I had hit it on the nose.”

2016 Instagram’s New Look by John Gruber: “Even if you disagree with the direction in which they’ve taken their brand today, do not think for a second that they did this on a whim.”

Bonus: 2016 The Audacity of Copying Well by Ben Thompson: “Instagram Stories are absolutely a rip-off — and that’s the first big reason they might succeed.”

2017 How Instagram Changed Before it Had To by Harry McCracken: “Embracing change when everything’s clicking may be one of the hardest challenges in business.”

2018 A Wise Man Leaves Facebook by Kara Swisher: “‘In a perfect world, they wanted to continue to build and were not bored at all,’ said one person with knowledge of the situation. ‘But they were frustrated by an inability to take it to the next level.’”

2019 Kevin Systrom on Building The World’s Filter by Stella Bugbee: “in business, winning is always great, but winning always comes at some cost of some other part of the business.”

2020 My Instagram by Dayna Tortorici: “To press a button and see your own excrescence appear in the preordained format, minted, can feel like a kind of magic. It can make you feel like you count.”

More Sarah Frier’s No Filter expounds on Instagram’s story in-depth. Get it! Unresolved: whether Kevin Systrom opened that bottle of Jim Beam.

As for me? I signed up for Instagram in 2012, and it changed my life by making me go places I never imagined.


Posted earlier as a thread on Twitter.