No Filter | Sarah Frier

Summary of: No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram
By: Sarah Frier


Welcome to the captivating story of Instagram’s rise to fame, as told in Sarah Frier’s insightful book ‘No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram’. Delve into the twists and turns that shaped this app’s evolution, from its artistic and community-driven beginnings to the tumultuous changes it faced after being acquired by Facebook. Explore how Instagram weathered the challenges of growth, competition and the darker side of social media, while also examining the contrasting philosophies of its founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

The Evolution of Instagram

Instagram began as a platform for sharing artistic photos but evolved to become a globally impactful social media application. Kevin Systrom, the founder of Instagram, opted out of joining Facebook or Twitter and created a mobile app as its precursor. Systrom pitched his app to a venture capitalist who provided funding with the condition to add a partner, who became Mike Krieger. The initial app focused on posting photos and keeping it simple with a name that combined “instant” and “telegram.” The first beta users were designers and artists with many Twitter followers. Instagram’s history reveals the combination of “capitalism and ego” that transformed it from an artistic app to a platform with a significant impact on global society.

The Birth and Growth of Instagram

Instagram was released in 2010, and the app quickly became the most downloaded camera app on the Apple store. The founders focused on photos and projected exclusivity, and they only made the app available on iPhone. As the number of users increased, the company faced challenges with servers and had to hire more employees to increase their technical capacity. Despite facing the ugly side of social media, they focused on building a positive community and supporting users who embodied their ideals. Instagram encouraged “InstaMeets” in the real world and created “editorial initiatives” to counter the celebrity mania dominating the app.

Zuckerberg’s Domination Play

In “No Filter,” Sarah Frier reveals the story behind Facebook’s purchase of Instagram. Mark Zuckerberg saw Instagram as a threat to Facebook’s growth and wanted to eliminate competition for users’ time. Despite Instagram’s popularity, Zuckerberg convinced its founder, Kevin Systrom, to sell it for $1 billion. Zuckerberg promised Instagram’s independence but wanted to capture more user time. This acquisition changed the tech industry. Zuckerberg’s philosophy was to dominate, while Systrom wanted to bring people together through art. Regulators approved the sale, but missed the potential growth and influence of the companies. Zuckerberg recognized that social media could become “part of the infrastructure of society.”

Instagram’s Survival Story

In the early stages of Instagram’s development, the team faced resistance from Facebook’s “growth team” who wouldn’t offer support until they proved they weren’t stealing Facebook’s users. Instagram’s team recognized that data collection was crucial and implemented new functions that aligned with their values of community, simplicity, and creativity. They faced backlash with a new “terms of service” which led to a spike in user deletions until CEO Kevin Systrom clarified the company’s ownership of user photos. Instagram found success with the launch of their video capability, but Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg turned predatory in his attempts to crush Instagram’s competitor, Snapchat, and urged Systrom to attract more teens to the platform, all while pushing for ads on Instagram despite previous reluctance.

Instagram’s Journey to Ad Success

In 2013, Instagram ran its first ad while allowing only one brand per day. However, advertisers preferred the app to Facebook, leading to Facebook’s sales team taking over Instagram sales. The following year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg mandated Instagram to make $1 billion in ad revenue, prompting the use of Facebook’s automated ad system. Instagram also faced the challenge of fake followers and accounts, leading to the deletion of millions of followers. Nevertheless, Instagram became a platform for people to gain fame and money as influencers, with companies paying users to sell their products. Teenagers already measured their relevance based on the number of followers they had, according to outside researchers. Instagram was even deemed the worst app for youth mental health in a UK study.

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