Expanding functionality: Instagram and Snapchat take great leaps forward

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It appears that Instagram and Snapchat have taken great leaps forward.

Square is no longer the scope, as Instagram now natively allows its users to post photos in full portrait and landscape mode with retained access to all its filters for photo and video.

This easter egg of sorts came as a worldwide update to Android and iOS versions of the popular photo-sharing application on Aug. 27, and looks to be leading the initial phase of annual software and hardware updates and enhancements that developers and manufacturers roll out each fall.

Many were fairly skeptical the last time the Instagram app had a paradigm shift. Who could blame them? Their serene world of beautifully edited photos was about to be bombarded with 15-second autoplaying and looping videos.

This seems to have worked out considerably well for the tech company however, as the majority of Instagram’s more than 200 million users quickly became comfortable with their newfound ability to share their world in a more encompassing format. Plus, the app’s developers threw in auto image stabilization in the iOS version upon launch.

Instagram has made huge strides in its development as an easily accessible photo sharing app and a household name in the realm of social media, but this raises the question of how involved Facebook is in this momentum.

It was on April 9, 2012 that Stanford graduates Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger sold their 13-person tech startup to Facebook. Facebook purchased the photo filter and sharing app 18 months after its initial launch for $1 billion: $300 million in cash, the rest in Facebook stock.

Instagram’s video-capable update came just a bit over a year later, on June 20, 2013, and this was accomplished with Facebook’s unquestionable involvement. This leads one to wonder how much involvement and creative jurisdiction Systrom truly retains as Instagram’s CEO — could he accomplish all this without Facebook?

Systrom has been asked on many occasions whether he ever feels like he sold Instagram too soon and for too little. At its current state, with over 200 million users, Instagram is now as big as Twitter which raised almost $2 million in its IPO and has a market cap valuation of over $21 million.

The summary of his answer is maybe, if he could have seen the future and was interested in more money, but that he is still satisfied with his decision. Instagram’s relationship with Facebook is far from symbiotic, so everything looks rosy for now at least.

Snapchat also made a big move this past week as —  also on Aug. 27 —  the company added Mashable, IGN and Tastemade to its Discover platform.

This development is proof of the understandable confidence Snapchat’s has in its user interface, which has already undergone various changes over the course of 2015, the most significant of which is the initial introduction of Discover on Jan. 27.

Although faced with confusion and concerns of clutter and redundancy from users at first, Snapchat’s expansion of its application’s scope has been met with favourable results and is a sign of the company’s growth as a must-have social media outlet for users.

So far, all of this has been accomplished solely by Snapchat with its intuitiveness and constantly growing capability, and the company’s 25-year-old CEO Evan Spiegel intends to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.

Spiegel turned down a $3 billion offer to buy his hugely popular photo and video sharing – and now news providing, thanks to Discover —  app in Nov. 2013. The offer came from none other than Facebook, and they were even prepared to pay in cash.

Many believe Spiegel made the best decision at the time, and he is still happy with his course of action, as he is clearly doing very well with his brainchild at the moment. A small speed hump in what seems to be Facebook’s master plan to take over the tech world.

As of the first quarter of 2014, Facebook also officially owns Oculus and WhatsApp; but that’s another story.