The sad truth about Instagram is that it used to be much better than it is today. Usually products and services iterate and improve over time, but that is arguably not the case with Instagram. The photo sharing social network has an unfortunate pattern of removing good features, adding unnecessary features, and ignoring feature requests. Maybe it makes for a better Instagram overall, but it's not my ideal Instagram.
Since version 1.0 on iPhone, Instagram has:
- Removed the original set of filters, including the beloved black and white Gotham filter.
- Removed live photo filters (iOS 7's Camera app features live photo filters, very useful for understanding how a filter will impact a photo before you capture it).
- Changed its icon. This wasn't a problem for most people at the time, but with modern iOS design language, the original icon would probably be less obnoxious. At any rate, it shows Instagram wasn't afraid to change their icon, but these days it seems they're either terrified or too stubborn to step away from it.
- Added an Android version. This is fine, but did the former changes occur to afford the app's expansion to iOS's competition? Originally, the social network was only iPhone-captured photos, save for the occasional #latergram imported from someone's Canon or Nikon. Having photos shared from a Samsung Galaxy S or an HTC One doesn't really dilute the experience, everyone's photos probably suck most of the time despite which device was used, but displaying EXIF info similar to how Flickr does would be pretty cool.
- Added video sharing. This is definitely obnoxious is *has* diluted the Instagram experience. Why did Instagram do this? Probably Vine.
- Added private photo and video sharing plus comments with Instagram Direct. This is probably never used. I'll occasionally send an Instagram Direct to a friend to troll; half the joke is remembering that the feature is even there. Why did Instagram do this? Probably Snapchat.
- Added advanced photo editing tools and more toggles and controls for the existing filters. This is sort of clunky and potentially makes the sharing process slower and more complex. Why did Instagram do this? Maybe people were requesting this, maybe its developers were scratching their own itch, but probably Flickr.
- Replaced Foursquare location data with Facebook's location not-so data.
Despite the long list of changes above, Instagram has not:
- Released an iPad-optimized version. Facebook notoriously took ages to release an iPad-optimized client and only recently released its Messenger app for iPad (which presumably took litter effort), so it's no surprise that Instagram has focused on adding video support and private sharing rather than a really good first-party iPad app. Certainly fewer people capture and share photos from the iPad, but the larger canvas makes for a much better photo viewing experience, and Photo Stream makes it possible to capture a good iPhone photo and later evaluate and share it from the iPad. I've even shot some pretty good photos from my iPad, and I frequently share from my iPad on the blown-up iPhone app.
- Updated its icon to fit in with the rest of our iOS 7 icons. The icon stands out on any home screen and not in a good way. This is one part perplexing, one part insulting.
- Released a fully functioning website. The current website does some of the things like interacting with shared photos and viewing images, but searching keyboards, viewing notifications, and sharing photos is not supported. Oh well, at least we have Instagram Direct!
The rest of Instagram's bloated features wouldn't bother me so much if an updated icon and iPad version surfaced tomorrow. Either of those two additions would greatly excite me, but at this rate its not exactly something I'm expecting anytime soon. Instameh.