Image Filters Didn’t Make Instagram Successful

Yeah, I know. Adding image filters to your Internet service is all the rage these days. Twitter’s doing it. Google’s done it. Flickr did it today.


Yeah, I know. They’re fun to fiddle with, but I honestly don’t believe that Instagram became successful because of image filters. When I first hopped onto Instagram, I honestly didn’t get it. I eschewed it for months. Why would I care to destroy the image quality (and resolution) of the photos I painstakingly snapped?

It’s just another image service, right?

Turns out, no.

Despite having every social account known to humanity (and then some), now, my favorite app to open up at any given point in the day is Instagram. Why?

Because I don’t have to think about it; I just have to look.

I don’t catch up with friends through their Twitter or Facebook feeds (and, please, don’t get on my case about Google+ again). Instead, I look to Instagram — usually. And here’s the thing: I’ve started to break my “rule” about social photo friending.

When I set up my Flickr account, I made the decision to only friend people I knew in real life. But on Instagram, it turns out that many of the people I know love to take unintentionally blurry photos of people I don’t know who are speaking at a conference I honestly don’t care about.

So, I’ve turned to friending people who are doing genuinely interesting things on Instagram — like Bobby Sussman (who has been posting a scene from The Empire Strikes Back in consecutive order with Star Wars toys since the beginning of the year) and Chris McVeigh (who is one of the most talented LEGO brick artists around).

It isn’t because of filters that I’m drawn to Bobby and Chris; it’s because they’re being creative, and it’s easy to scroll through their creativity at any given moment.

Twitter? Words, words, words. Facebook? Words, words, words. Links, links, links.

I don’t read anything on Instagram (and don’t want to). I don’t click anything on Instagram (because you can’t). I just turn off the thinking side of my brain for a moment and enjoy what my eyes take in.

So, when a service makes an announcement that it’s adding x amount of image filters to its product, I furrow my brow and wonder if it really understands that… image filters didn’t make Instagram amazing.

Its simplicity, stage for creativity, and no-thinking-required did.

Can Instagram be replaced? Sure, but image filters are merely icing on the cake — a gimmick, at best. The ability to share the photo’s permalink? Well, Instagram should only care about getting more users to Instagram.

Did you even read this article? Here, let me sum it up for you with this photo:

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11 thoughts on “Image Filters Didn’t Make Instagram Successful”

  1. Hmmmn, interesting perspective. I’ve been a bit dismissive of Instagram, well, for the same reasons you list. Taking a good picture and crapping it up with a filter didn’t appeal to me. Didn’t know there were people doing genuinely interesting “project”-type things there.

  2. Hey Chris,
    I get this! I follow friends and brands who are being creative and people who have bulldogs… cuz, I have a bulldog and they are awesome – I digress.
    Instagram will not just fall apart because twitter broke up with them.
    I will continue to use it. I will share pictures and like others. Nothing changes.

  3. Instagram is also the newest social platform, and when I use it I have found ways to easily rake in followers. Twitter and facebook have already eliminated a lot of these loopholes already. Just an interesting difference. I agree with @darnellclayton:disqus that tumblr combines all blogging forms into a pretty seamless and easy to use interface. You can get access to all types of media under any tag, but mobile tumblr sucks!

  4. The point of filters is that NO smartphone camera wil EVER get even close to the quality of an average full-fledged reflex camera. Why bother about quality then? Isn’t it better to add something else to the picture? Therefore, Instagram is about filters.

  5. im sure part of the reason companies are adding these features is that people become used to certain features on one website and expect them on what ever service they use much like logging in to websites with social network log ons its just expected now and most sites offer it, but im not sure why adding features whether original or not is a bad thing as long as it doesn’t hinder the user.

  6. I had the exact reaction to instagram. I fought joining for a long time. You put it very simply, it’s nice to just flip through a few every day. I found exchanging comments after a while with a small group became fun. There are times when you don’t want to posts a masterpiece, you just want to show something funny, or tasty or let others see what you’re doing. And that community became addictive. And there is quality – if you look for it. Amazing stuff most people that complain the site lacks – but those are the people who never try it – they just like to bitch about “who cares what you’re eating” photos. Stop and educate yourself first.

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