On Instagram's Start

17 February 2023

Kevin Systrom:

[…] I want to point out that when we launched Instagram, it was a filter app first for everyone. Most people didn’t even know that there was a network behind it. It was a filter app. My intention was always for it to be a social app, and I was bummed when everyone talked about it as a filter app.

But what I realized in there is that the best networks are first to utility, and then they piggyback on that utility, and they become a network. I think Facebook’s actually a great example of this. It may not be so clear, but it was clearly just a directory at the beginning. It was about finding people, communicating with them. And then it became the social network that it became once they added the news feed and all this other stuff.

So Instagram and Facebook are actually not that different in their evolution. [We decided] when we talked about launch, that we were just going to focus on the utility part of it first and be really good at that because starting a social network from scratch, I think, is the wrong order.

You see a lot of people launching things today that are social networks first and then utility is questionable. And it’s because the utility in the social network only makes sense when you’re at scale, when you have a lot of people. And it’s very hard to bootstrap that.

(Emphasis mine)