Two and a half years on, the app now has more than 300 million active users.
The milestone was revealed on Instagram’s blog, alongside the announcement that the app is launching “verified” badges for celebrities, sports stars and brands, while also planning a crackdown on “spammy” accounts.
“We’re proud to announce that there are now more than 300 million Instagrammers. Over the past four years, what began as two friends with a dream has grown into a global community that shares more than 70 million photos and videos each day,” wrote chief executive Kevin Systrom.
That makes Instagram bigger than Twitter, which had 284 million active users the last time it revealed such figures publicly, although Instagram is still behind Facebook Messenger (500m), WhatsApp (600m) and Facebook itself (1.1bn mobile monthly active users).
In July, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told analysts that “globally, people using Instagram now spend around 21 minutes a day on average using the app,” meanwhile.
Instagram launched for Apple’s iPhone in October 2010, before being ported to Android in April 2012. It has grown rapidly, reaching 100 million active users in February 2013, then 200 million in March 2014. It has taken just nine months to hit the 300 million milestone.
Systrom told CNBC that more than 70% of Instagram’s users are now outside the US. “We’re seeing a lot of people coming in the fashion world, a lot of people coming in in the youthful teens world, and a lot of people internationally as well,” he said.
The new verified badges match similar features on Facebook and Twitter, marking out the authentic profiles of public figures, and thus helping people spot fakes. Instagram’s badges will “start rolling out over the coming days” according to Systrom.
Instagram has become a popular social media channel for brands and celebrities alike, from Taylor Swift popping up to comment on fans’ posts to Kim Kardashian’s infamous attempt to “break the internet” with a snap of a nude magazine photo-shoot.
On the brands front, Instagram has been trying to make money by selling advertising, putting its first ads in users’ feeds in late 2013 in the US, before expanding to the UK in September 2014 with partners including Waitrose, Rimmel, Channel 4, Starbucks, Cadbury, Estee Lauder and Sony Music.
The new crackdown on “spammy” and fake accounts is part of that effort, with numerous brands having been represented on Instagram by fake accounts in recent years.
“As more people join, keeping Instagram authentic is critical—it’s a place where real people share real moments. We’re committed to doing everything possible to keep Instagram free from the fake and spammy accounts that plague much of the web,” he wrote in the blog post.
“We’ve been deactivating spammy accounts from Instagram on an ongoing basis to improve your experience. As part of this effort, we will be deleting these accounts forever, so they will no longer be included in follower counts.”
With 300 million people using the app, Instagram remains focused on growth, with its parent company seemingly keen to avoid being too over-aggressive in its efforts to make money.
“There have been a number of good ads, both video and images that I think have been pretty effective, but it’s fairly early and in the growth phase at this point,” said Zuckerberg in July, when Instagram’s public user figure was still 200 million.
“The top priority for Instagram is to grow from 200 to more and eventually connect a billion or more people. And I think that that’s something that should be possible and that’s what I’m really focused on and excited about now, while we also start building out some of the parts of the business as well.”
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 10th December 2014 16.43 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010