Instagram 1.0 was about sharing photos using creative filters; 2.0 was about speed; Instagram 3.0, launching today on Android and iPhone, plots all your photos on a map of the world, creating an entirely new way to browse someone's photos on the service. "One of the biggest problems in social media is that you often post things that are very ephemeral," Instagram Founder and CEO Kevin Systrom told The Verge. "Things live for a couple hours and then they float off into the ether." Instagram 3.0 was designed to be useful for browsing, but also as a tool to better surface old content. Until now, you'd have to thumb through a friend's pictures chronologically, whereas in 3.0, you can browse your own or someone else's photos on a map, setting aside date and time.
"You've been building this archive of beautiful photos and we haven't let you go back and live through them," Systrom says. When you update to Instagram 3.0, a banner at the top of your feed lets you know that there are photos you need to review before the app makes them visible on your Photo Map. From the start, every photo you've geotagged is selected, but with one tap, you can de-select them all or pick and choose photos you want to strip of their location data. If you'd like, you can at any time strip location data from specific photos or all photos you took in a specific place, like your spring break trip in Cancun. "We want to make it really clear that you're in control," he said, seemingly aware of privacy perils other apps have faced this past year.
"We want to make it really clear that you're in control."
Once you've approved your photos, a new Photo Map browsing mode appears on every profile you follow (including yours) right next to grid mode and list mode. Tapping the Photo Map launches you into a map view that groups photos into stacks by location. When you zoom in, stacks split into more precise stacks over specific locations. A tap reveals all photos from a stack. As far as other updates to Instagram, the profile view has been cleaning up a bit, and usernames have been moved to the app's header. Additionally, a multi-line caption box has been added, "the biggest complaint from so many people," Systrom noted. Lastly, several performance tweaks should make using the app an overall snappier experience, like infinite scrolling in the feed, and a new photo / comment spam reporting system has been implemented in order to respond to the millions more users (80 million total, as of late July) the company has been adding each month.
Looking forward, Systrom envisions an Instagram that instantly pipes photos into one location-tagged stream for concertgoers, or one stream of photos tagged in front of the Eiffel Tower. "All sorts of cool things hapen once people use geodata," he said. Systrom also mentioned a larger focus on the app's web presence, which has thus far been mostly missing in action. The company has recently added likes and comments to a sleek new web interface, and while you can't browse your feed quite yet (aside from using third party solutions), we'd bet it's coming.
Instagram faces an interesting challenge with version 3.0: explaining to users the value of browsing photos by location. Apple's own iPhoto for Mac and Photos for iOS have offered photo browsing by location (and by face) for some time, but we don't hear much talk about either feature. Ultimately, people are just more accustomed to browsing feeds chronologically. "This is a stage for the production, not the production itself," Systrom said. "We need to set the stage for people to geotag a lot. In the process, people will learn the value of geotagging."