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Instagram turns 20 on this day in 2030

The ‘photo filtering app’ has changed dramatically — and changed the world around it

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Photo illustration by William Joel / The Verge

[Transcript for 2D legacy devices]




INSTAGRAM, the little photo filtering app that’s become the biggest shopping and communications platform in the world, turned TWENTY YEARS OLD today.

—RIGHT EYE / interspersed archival photos of Instagram app CIRCA 2015, CIRCA 2014, CIRCA 2012

The service has TRANSFORMED SIGNIFICANTLY over the past decade, growing from a little social app into a ubiquitous platform that runs much of our daily lives — including the AUGMENTED VIDEO PLATFORM you’re probably using to watch this.

That success recently made it the first $10 TRILLION COMPANY, even as legacy brands like FACEBOOK and WHATSAPP/MESSENGER CLASSIC continue to see sinking annual returns.

With the company’s anniversary in mind, here’s A REVIEW of some of Instagram’s BIGGEST MOMENTS over its past 10 years.


Instagram launches A DEDICATED SHOPPING TAB, a precursor to its global commerce network. At launch, the service allows you to swipe through products, stores, and tagged photos to BUY ANYTHING you see.

—LEFT EYE / (2021) screenshot of APP FEATURES 

Instagram clones Pinterest’s product bookmarking tool. SHARE TO INSTAGRAM buttons begin appearing on the web, letting you save products of interest and find similar styles in the app.


Instagram messenger becomes INTEROPERABLE with WhatsApp and SMS. Cheshire Analytics estimates that HALF OF MOBILE MESSAGES sent globally pass through Facebook servers by the end of the year. 

—RIGHT EYE (video) / trailer footage CREDIT: INSTAGRAM STUDIOS

Instagram launches Netflix competitor, FLICKS. Its DEBUT SLATE of films stars a global group of influencers and is designed to appeal to mobile viewers. Viewership is limited, though the binge shopping series BUY SH!T becomes a viral hit when one influencer dramatically purchases a small island on their mother’s credit card. “Islanding” becomes a status symbol, and the manmade island market becomes A $10 BILLION INDUSTRY within a year.


Instagram launches IG CARD, IG CODES, and INSTA TAP POINTS, allowing physical retailers to accept purchases through the app. Lower transaction fees and social integrations (such as the popular “SHARE TO BUY” discount) encourage wide adoption among home goods stores, fashion retailers, and restaurants.

Following MYSTERY BOX CRAZE, Instagram launches INSTABOX, offering sale of random items shipped to your home overnight. “Our boxes have twice as many mysteries as any other box on the market,” a product manager said at launch. Boxes are later recalled after three buyers receive body parts.

—RIGHT EYE / “CPSC Recall Notice”

Instagram launches an Uber clone, letting you hail a taxi by posting a video from the corner you’re standing on.

INSTAGRAM NEWS begins piping headlines and short broadcast segments between photos and stories. It becomes the PRIMARY NEWS SOURCE for the app’s youngest users. A cottage industry forms around promoting viral news stories about “VIBEY” LOCAL SPOTS, turning small businesses into tourist destinations overnight.


Hundreds of influencers THREATEN TO UNIONIZE if Instagram does not begin sharing profits of IG SHOP. Instagram does not respond, and several leaders are PERMANENTLY BANNED from the platform.

—LEFT EYE / RIGHT EYE: [projected] aggregate photos showing “OUR LOOKS, OUR LIVES” slogan

Instagram launches clone of LOLCATE, the viral location sharing app that has made stars of teens who pop up at the most unpredictable places. Parents CRITICIZED THE APP for being “an obvious stalking risk” and “I can’t find my son.”

Instagram launches STORES, letting retailers open AUGMENTED REALITY SHOPS that the app superimposes around you. Users can virtually try on clothing and post photos of themselves “wearing” garments before they’re purchased. Independent retailers claim the virtual try-ons are TANTAMOUNT TO SHOPLIFTING and that influencers are profiting off of products without buying them.

The new INSTACHOW feature integrates food delivery, letting you swipe on any food pic and have the app automatically order an equivalent from a nearby restaurant. Restaurants that POORLY REPLICATE the food are often flooded with complaints and kicked off the platform. DARK KITCHENS rapidly pop up that specialize in precise reconstruction of photographed meals. Post-new American restaurants serving ultra-small bite platters come to dominate, thanks to their smorgasbord of offerings, allowing photographers to fit dozens of selections in a single frame (typical: steaming tea, three flat noodles, one mini rainbow macaron, a flake of grated bourbon-glazed parmesan, deconstructed Brussels sprout, assorted soup “shots,” decoratively carved basil leaf, one-inch rice statue [often — Iron Man, pot leaf, Stalin], dehydrated puffed grilled tuna bite [for cats], etc.) 


The FIRST GENERATION of INSTAGRAM LENS launches for Apple Glass, Samsung Galaxy Glasses, Oculus GLSS, and other face displays. The augmented reality app applies beauty filters to people and places around you. Skin is smoothed, cheekbones are raised, lashes lengthened, eyes widened, lips plumped and slightly parted. For those who want it, beards are everywhere; for those who don’t, they are wiped away. Skies are made bluer, clouds made crisper, grass becomes neatly trimmed. In the fall, piles of leaves appear in every open field. The app is widely criticized for reinforcing unrealistic beauty (and landscaping) standards. Soon, a common advice column complaint comes from writers whose partner refuses to take off their glasses at home. One woman says her husband of two years, an early Apple Glass adopter, told her she was being vain for insisting that it mattered how she appeared to him. “He told me that it shouldn’t matter how he filters me because it’s what’s inside that counts,” she writes.

—WORLD FILTER APPLIED: “GEN 1” (CIRCA 2023, CIRCA 2024) face displays / randomized style, color, fit

Instagram launches a clone of Robinhood, letting you BUY AND TRADE STOCKS by posting photos of a company’s products. During a demo, an executive snapped a photo of their Tesla Model 8=D but failed to complete the transaction because trading had BEEN HALTED due to a “Twitter incident.”


A PATENT TROLL with assets from the defunct classic media startup Quibi sues Instagram over alleged theft of its “turnstyle” technology. The claim is QUICKLY SETTLED out of court.


“InstaImplants” allow influencers to embed SMALL WIRELESS CHIPS in their neck that communicate with Instagram Lens, telling the app how they should be displayed to users. Teens mostly make themselves APPEAR GROTESQUE to mess with their parents. Stans begin making themselves appear AS CLONES of their favorite stars. Management companies soon develop CUSTOM FACES for their talent that change along with NEW ALBUM RELEASES. They are then sold to fans in PRE-RELEASE BUNDLES with physical TIE-IN MYSTERY BOXES.

Instagram launches an Airbnb clone, allowing users to FIND HOMES AND APARTMENTS they can rent for short stays by swiping through photos.


With the FACEBOOK BRAND toxic to investors after the ILL-FATED digital city project wiped out thousands of acres of rainforest, the company is renamed THE INSTAGRAM GROUP.

—LEFT EYE / RIGHT EYE: Instagram Group wordmark and containing brand logos; WhatsApp, Messenger, Lens, Shops, Flicks, Clips, Pops, Go, etc.

Baldwell Group, a leading analyst firm, predicts that by 2040, three-quarters of US merchandise sales will happen on Instagram.

Instagram’s VIRTUAL LEGISLATURE launches with the ability to pass policy changes within the app following YEARS OF CONCERN around content moderation, distortion of reality (enhanced looks, fake reality), and algorithm changes that many allege increasingly favor the wealthiest users able to overwrite filters with high-power implants. The lower chamber is composed of top influencers, popular filter designers, and a rotating selection of viral teenagers. The upper chamber includes thought leaders hand-selected by Instagram’s Policy, People, Property, and Personnel Team. The executive branch is led by CONTROLLING SHAREHOLDERS, effectively keeping Mark Zuckerberg in control.

European regulators begin investigating whether Instagram has a monopoly on the AUGMENTED PAYMENT MARKET. The investigation focuses on exclusivity terms that LOCK OUT competing FACE DISPLAY APPS. Leaders in the US say an American tech company is being unfairly targeted for its success.


Senator and former influencer KATIE FLYSTYLE (D-SV) is indicted for FAILING TO DISCLOSE that her posts about anti-fatigue eye cream were sponsored advertisements. The product, part of a GROWING MARKET of unapproved mild steroids meant to address digital strain, appeared in a half dozen posts over Flystyle’s first year in office. The senator said she “would have used [it] anyway” and argued that the free merchandise and payments did not qualify as a sponsorship because it was a “truly, genuinely great product, sponsorship or no.” The senator’s stans threaten to doxx activists who call for her to step down. 

—RIGHT EYE / interspersed PROMOS of FLYSTYLE dabbing eye with blue-green cream.

INSTA APPS allow other companies to build services inside of INSTAGRAM LENS. At launch, Nike creates virtual sneakers you can pay to equip your augmented self with (physical AR tracking sneakers sold separately). Subway makes an AR sandwich app that lets you APPEAR TO CARRY AND EAT a virtual sandwich. It becomes a trend to pose with a half-eaten virtual sandwich.


Mark Zuckerberg posts video of his FIRST STEPS on Mars to Instagram.

—VISION REPLACE: Martian landscape

A 13-year-old hacker posts statement to presidential Instagram account offering FREE USA E GOLD, tanking the price of real gold and sending the virtual currency’s price soaring. The White House later clarifies, “This was a hacking attempt. USA E GOLD is not an authorized digital currency.”

Instagram launches clone of viral “anti-privacy” app DATADIVE, letting you doxx your DOB, medical conditions, SSN, and more for micropayments.

Activists VIRTUALLY PICKET the opening of new company headquarters Instagram Tower, criticizing the app for “digital-gating” too much of daily life, from payments to fashion. “No one is required to use INSTA LENS or IG PAY or SHARE TO BUY,” a spokesperson said. “Traditional e-currency is still accepted at many locations.”


After losing his primary bid for governor of Silicon Valley State to Senator Flystyle, Mark Zuckerberg DISMISSES RUMORS that he’s gearing up to run for president in 2032, saying he’s focusing on Instagram where “there’s plenty to do.” Critics accuse Zuckerberg of consolidating power after he signs an order declaring the Virtual Legislature to be “an optional route” for establishing digital rules.

Zuckerberg institutes THE CONTROVERSIAL “INSTATAX” on all transactions, which he says will go toward a dedicated fund for digital public works projects, starting with virtual preschools.

Virtual billboards go up that advertise the new Z WORKS PROJECTS that Zuckerberg has enacted, including clean air filters, virtual food enhancers, and algorithm changes that offer more views to middle-tier influencers.

Zuckerberg’s popularity rating soars, though activists have accused his virtual moderators of being overly aggressive in their enforcement of “INSTAGRAM-FRIENDLY” filters, saying the rule is used as an excuse to ban vintage implants, enhancements, and styles that don’t contribute virtual tax dollars.

—LEFT EYE: Classic Polaroid-esque Instagram logo.

Reports suggest teenagers are RAPIDLY ABANDONING Instagram due to its bloated feature set and popularity among their parents. Instagram launches a clone of QUIKPICS, a simple 2D photo sharing service loved by Gen Alpha for its minimal aesthetic.