Instagram makes me mad every time I open the app on my iPhone. This is a service that pretends to be about photography but actually doesn’t care about it at all. Instagram is actually about social and about traffic, it just uses photos to trick people into playing along. This may sound like a bold statement, but it’s easily proven based on the fact that you could not make a worse photo viewing application if you tried.
When you open the Instagram app, you see a timeline of photos from people you follow. Here’s one from astronaut Scott Kelly, currently aboard the International Space Station.
It’s a beautiful photograph. I think I’d like to view it without the comments and the white background. I’ll tap the photo and isolate it from the (let’s be honest) ugliness of the Instagram UI. Oh. Wait. I can’t.
There IS no way to view just the image. Comments are always inline, and you CAN’T EVEN PINCH AND ZOOM OR ROTATE INTO LANDSCAPE to view the photo better. This is an iPhone app that refuses to take advantage of the capabilities of iOS to really let you study and enjoy the photograph. But rest assured, the sharing options are all there, because that’s all that really matters with Instagram.
It’s a photo app made by people who don’t give a flying fahrvergnügen about photos.
Contrast that to the Flickr iOS app’s timeline. Yes, the the app does interject a few comments under each photo, but generally the photo and the information provided by the photographer take precedence. But that’s not the important part.
Tap a photo, and there it is on a black background, ready and able for the viewer to resize and pan around on it. Rotate the phone, and there’s a beautiful landscape view, also fully supporting of pinch and zoom and panning.
Not only can you actually VIEW and ENJOY the photo (amazing concept, I know!), you can even look at the metadata. You know, in case you care about the photo and think it’s the reason you’re there, looking at it.
For years, people have been proclaiming Flickr dead while drooling over the popularity of Instagram, but Flickr actually understands and cares about photography. Instagram cares about likes and traffic.
Instagram is a wild mix of great photos and total throwaways, because different people use it for different reasons, and that’s fine. Unfortunately, Instagram itself only uses the service for one reason, and that’s to reel people in to generate the big numbers. Photos are just the bait on the hook for achieving it.