Instagram went live in 2010 and it’s come a long way since then. When Instagram first began, it was a simple social media platform that enabled its users to share photos with friends and family. Now, it’s a powerhouse of marketing, business, and ways to connect with users in your target audience for monetization and profits.
Of course, the element of sharing and connecting with others is still there, but there are now many more opportunities far beyond that. Anyone serious about creating a strong online presence should be looking to optimize their Instagram.
Instagram has been on a long journey throughout the years, and it’s changed in many ways to facilitate a more engaging and productive user experience. In fact, there have been so many updates throughout the years that it’s as if there have been multiple Instagram platforms in general.
Instagram has always been popular; after launching, it already had over a million users in a short span of two month. 50 million Instagrammers were happily using the platform as Instagram reached 2 years.
Now known as one of the big three, Instagram has earned its spot among Facebook and YouTube, becoming the third most popular social network on a global scale with over 1 billion monthly active users.
Instagram has released a variety of notable features over the years, and we’re going to give you some insight into how the platform came to be the Instagram we all know and love today.
Not only will you be able to understand Instagram’s trajectory after reading, but you’ll also have an idea about what features you should be expanding on, how to implement them into strategies, and what may be in the future for the social media giant.
Let’s get started!
Instagram Updates 2010
Here we will find all of the growth and notable information about Instagram since it’s launch in October 2010.
Instagram in October 2010
Instagram officially launched on October 6th, 2010. After one week, there were already 100k users on the platform and was sitting in the top spot as the #1 photography app in the Apple App Store.
Instagram was built in only 8 weeks, and after a year of planning, it was already gaining a significant amount of traction, foreshadowing its successful future.
The main features of Instagram at its launch was very simple: users could post photos, like and comment on these photos, and follow users. Aw, the good ol’ days! It’s much more than that now.
Instagram in December 2010
Two short months after Instagram launched it hit its first milestone— one million users. This happened on December 12th, and even though there weren’t any notable changes in the features and functionalities of the platform, it became clear that Instagram would be something that people should definitely be paying attention to.
Instagram Updates 2011
Hashtags, version 2.0 and more, Instagram began to get some serious steam in 2011.
Instagram in January 2011
Hashtags were officially used on Twitter in 2007 but didn’t become a staple on Instagram until January of 2011. Can you imagine an Instagram where hashtags didn’t exist? It seems like a completely different universe.
While it only took a short 3 months, it was clear that the platform needed to find a way to organize the content and make it discoverable for users to find content that they wanted to see. Hashtags did exactly that.
Today, hashtags are the most important factor in getting your content into a variety of feeds on the platform and getting it under the eyes of users in your target audience. Users can even subscribe to hashtag feeds to consistently see the related content that they are interested in, giving brands and businesses a good opportunity to be seen.
Instagram in September 2011
Coming up on one year after its launch, Instagram Version 2.0 was released to the masses. This release made the Instagram experience more user-friendly and much faster. Version 2.0 allowed users to access all camera effects from within its camera view and also added:
- New and live filters
- Instant tilt-shift
- High-resolution photographs
- Optional borders
- One-click rotation
- An updated icon
Woo-hoo! More photo freedom.
Instagram Updates 2012
Wait, Instagram wasn’t available on Android until 2012? Read on to find out why 2012 was a banner year for Instagram.
Instagram in April 2012
There was one big reason why the April 2012 Instagram update became one of the most significant: Instagram became available on the Android OS, which paved the way for a whole new market of users to begin using the platform. Due to this, it is no surprise that Instagram saw 50 million new users within the same month, making it even more likely that the platform would become one of the biggest social media players.
Instagram in August 2012
In August 2012, Instagram released the Photo Maps feature, which let users browse posts by scrolling through a map. This helped users find geographically relevant content. The feature was eventually discontinued in September 2016, but there are still ways you can view photo maps on Instagram today.
Instagram in December 2012
While most users may not know this, in December 2012 Instagram did something that seems pretty sketchy. There were no feature updates in December 2012 but there was another update— a change in Instagram’s terms of service.
What happened in Dec. 2012 was that Instagram gave itself the right to sell any user’s posted content to third parties without having to obtain consent from the user and without having to send any notification.
This policy was not received well by most and that’s when Instagram privacy policies began to be questioned and people began to wonder if our information and privacy is truly protected on social media.
Instagram Updates 2013
2012 brought some great features, but 2013 is when Instagram really started to pick up steam.
Instagram in May 2013
Nothing else of importance happened until May 2013, when Instagram went live with new photo tagging capabilities and the Photos of You tab that we all know (but maybe not love) today. After all, it’s a bit worrisome when someone tags you in a photo! Maybe you won’t like it.
In any case, it changed the way that we share photos and tag friends.The tab allows visitors on an Instagram profile to see a separate section of photos that this user has been tagged in. For this reason, it’s important for your reputation to make sure people only tag you in content that doesn’t make you look bad.
Instagram in June 2013
June 2013 officially marks the moment when Instagram became more than a photo sharing platform— video was introduced.
Users could now post short videos in their content, allowing more creative possibilities. This is still a huge part of
Instagram in July 2013
Because Instagram was becoming so popular, Instagram delivered an embed functionality for Instagram posts. This allowed for posts to be embedded and published on other platforms and websites, forums, and blogs.
Instagram in November 2013
Another big moment in Instagram history, sponsored posts became available to users in November 2013. This opened up a whole new door for advertising on social media, this update also boosted the influencer marketing industry on Instagram, now one of the most popular marketing strategies of all.
Instagram in December 2013
You were able to start sliding into DMs in 2013 with the new direct messaging feature on Instagram direct. Now, it’s simply called DMs, and it’s a huge communication functionality of the apps.
Can you imagine a world without DMs? We can’t! How would we get memes from friends?
Instagram Updates 2014
2014 continued to be a good year for Instagram with more business expansions.
Instagram in June 2014
Users were able to control even more how they edited their photos, with June 2014 expanding editing capabilities including brightness, contrast, highlights, and shadows.
Instagram in August 2014
August 2014 was a big deal for Instagram and business endeavors with added functionality for businesses.
This is when we first saw business tools for analytics and Instagram insights, which is a vital component for brands to track how their content performs.
From this moment forward, it was clear that Instagram was a huge opportunity for businesses and brands, but it would still be some time before Instagram introduces ads on the platform.
Instagram Updates 2015
Here, we’ll see Instagram move further into the advertising space with four total updates happening in 2015.
Instagram in June 2015
Instagram brought a new update 10 months after its previous one in June 2015. This update showed off new advertising options for businesses. These functions allowed users to run ads that include actions like sign up for email newsletters, install apps, or visit a website.
Because Instagram only allows one clickable link in a user’s Instagram bio, this was a big deal for many businesses that wanted to funnel traffic from Instagram to their outside website.
In addition, users could now upload horizontal and vertical pictures in posts.
Instagram in September 2015
Instagram provided its second update of 2015 in September with even more features for ads. Businesses could now run 20-second video ads on Instagram, which turned out to be a great idea. Videos get more engagement on Instagram and stand out more than static photo ads.
Instagram in October 2015
Our favorite photo feature, Boomerang, was added to Instagram just a month later in October 2015. Boomerangs are short looping videos that create a type of back-and-forth video that is similar to the movement of a boomerang, hence the name.
Let’s say you jump in front of your favorite building in town. The boomerang wil capture that, and then reverse it so you’re seen going back to the ground, and then you’ll go back up again. It loops over and over until the viewer decides to leave it.
Both TikTok and Instagram reels use looping videos, albeit longer and not reversed, so boomerang could be seen as the inspiration for these types of videos.
Instagram in November 2015
The final update of 2015 saw the removal of feed-reading applications. These were third party apps that allowed users to view Instagram feeds without using the Instagram app. This clearly didn’t work for Instagram.
Instagram Updates 2016
With a whopping 8 updates in 2016, Instagram was busy! The only other year that had this many updates was 2020, and COVID-19 probably had a big impact on that. Let’s see what 2016 did for Instagram updates.
Instagram in February 2016
With so much business expansion on Instagram, there was a real need for users to be able to switch to their business profiles quickly.
Before this, a user had to manually log out of their personal account and log into their business account. Instagram changed that, allowing users to stay logged into both accounts and toggle between them quickly.
Instagram in March 2016
A big update for Instagram was seen in 2016. This was perhaps one of the biggest and most upsetting updates for many.
Prior to March 2016, all Instagram feed content was shown in chronological order (in the order it was posted). This all changed.
The new Instagram algorithm, the one that we basically know today, focused heavily on engagement in deciding how people saw their Instagram content.
Now, Instagram users see content from the users that they engage with most, not simply from all accounts based on the order of posting. Nothing was the same!
Instagram in May 2016
With more business tools, Instagram allowed brands to get even more insight on performance in May 2016. Analytics began to include audience demographics, post impressions, and post reach, three huge pillars today.
Instagram in June 2016
Instagram became more multicultural with its instant translation feature. This allowed posts to be translated from the original post language to the user’s language instantly, which made global connection much easier.
Instagram in July 2016
With June’s update allowing for easier communication and conversation, July 2016 saw users have options for their comment section, allowing them to filter out certain comments or turn off the comment feature entirely.
Instagram in August 2016
Because Snapchat was doing so well, Instagram released what we now know to be one of its most successful features ever— Instagram stories. Instagram stories are videos or pictures that users post with available view time of just 24 hours.
Instagram stories are a huge staple of Instagram and remain an extreme success. In addition, we got image zoom in August 2016, allowing us to zoom in and take a better look at our favorite Instagram posts.
Instagram in September 2016
In September 2016 we saw another feature removal, which is the use of Instagram photo maps. While photo maps aren’t available as they were in the function, Instagram location tags does allow for a type of photo mapping per post.
Instagram in November 2016
Another heavy-hitting feature was added in the last update of 2016, November. Instagram Live launched here.
Users were now allowed to live stream events, music, conversations, and their everyday lives. This created a whole new type of content and gave brands and businesses even more ways to reach their audience.
Instagram Updates 2017
There were really few updates in 2017, with only one seen in February. Even though there weren’t many, it was a valuable one.
Instagram in February 2017
February 2017 saw Instagram carousel posts introduced, which is still a big part of Instagram’s content.
Prior to this, an Instagram user could only post one single photo in each post. Carousel posts expanded that to create albums with up to 10 photos on a single post. Users could then scroll through the photos by swiping left and right.
This is still a frequently-used content type on Instagram and provides high levels of engagement.
Instagram Updates 2018
With 2 updates in 2018, there were a variety of useful features that we saw introduced in this year.
Instagram in May 2018
One of the most notable features in 2018 was the mute feature, which allowed users to see less content from people they follow without having to unfollow them.
Instead, users could mute them, which effectively stops their posts from appearing in the feed. The muted user isn’t notified nor unfollowed, which is a win win.
Instagram in June 2018
The second update in June 2018 was more substantial with a huge feature being added— IGTV. This new feature made a world of new possibilities for video sharing with videos that could exceed 1 minute in length.
IGTV has its own standalone app or they can also be viewed in the Instagram app directly. Why was IGTV such a big deal?
IGTV is unique when considering other video apps because it’s optimized for mobile viewing, as is Instagram in general. Because videos are vertical, they’ll fill up the screen completely with no need to rotate the device, which is a more natural viewing experience for the user.
Instagram Updates 2019
There was only 1 update in 2019, making it another slow year for Instagram, but one of people’s favorite features was removed.
Instagram in October 2019
The biggest change in 2019 happened in October, when Instagram decided to remove the “following” tab. This tab previously allowed users to see what activities their followers were doing on the platform— what content they liked, commented on, or users they began to follow.
Some people appreciated this because it helped to protect their privacy and allow them to interact on the platform without having to worry about people seeing their every move. Some, however, were unhappy— they wanted to continue seeing what their friends and other users were doing.
The removal of this feature probably helped a lot of relationships, to be honest. No more seeing which selfies your girlfriend or boyfriend liked!
Instagram Updates 2020
2020 was another big year for Instagram updates, and this may have something to do with COVID-19 and the sheer volume of people using social media and digital resources.
Instagram in January 2020
Business features were expanded again in January 2020, allowing businesses to have an extra inbox tab and the capability to switch between the primary and general tab.
This allowed businesses to remain more organized in their Instagram communication.
Instagram in February 2020
In February 2020, newcategoies appeared called “following,” allowing users to see which users they interact most with and which ones they don’t follow back.
This feature is very handy in helping users decide which accounts they engage with most, which accounts they should potentially follow, and which accounts they can unfollow.
Instagram in March 2020
March saw the official announcement of COVID as a pandemic, so Instagram released different content stickers such as Stay Home and Thank Heroes to show the seriousness of the pandemic and also to show support to essential workers and those in healthcare.
Instagram in April 2020
Businesses got yet another main update in 2020, allowing businesses to have gift cards, food orders, and donation tools.
For all users, the desktop version of Instagram was changed to include Instagram Direct (DMs) on the desktop version. Previously, users could only send DMs via mobile; this update saw the expansion of the feature to desktop.
Instagram in May 2020
The Instagram Guides feature was launched in 2020, which is pretty handy. It lets users create a selection of posts with added commentary between them; it will then show up in the Guides tab on their profile.
The Shops feature was also launched, allowing businesses to build ecommerce stories directly on the Instagram app. Monetization was also created for IGTV, and more GIFs were added through the implementation of Giphy to help users express themselves.
Instagram in June 2020
June 2020 saw the pinned comment feature come to life, which allowed users to pin a comment to their section which makes it easily visible by all. It shows up at the top of the comment section so that all users can see it.
Instagram in August 2020
TikTok continues to be one of the biggest platforms in social media these days, so to combat this, Instagram released its Instagram Reels feature to compete. This is the same thing that they did to combat Snapchat with IG stories.
Reels is basically TikTok on Instagram, and the feature is still expanding.
Further, Instagram expanded Instagram stories with more font options and also started the merging process for Facebook messenger and IG direct.
Instagram in September 2020
The last update of 2020 saw Live Shopping, which was meant to help businesses who use the IG live feature. Now, users can buy the products being discussed on the IG live directly via Instagram.
Influencers or businesses that are talking about a product can create a call-to-action with a button at the bottom of the screen, allowing users to buy the product right there.
Instagram Updates 2021
So far we’ve seen a few added features in 2021 that have changed the way we use Instagram features. Let’s take a look.
- January 2021: professional dashboard for all creators and business accounts
- February 2021: Cross-app messaging between IG and Facebook, live rooms to chat with up to 4 friends simultaneously, recently deleted feature to restore deleted content for up to 30 days
- March 2021: live communication with 3 people on video in live rooms
- April 2021: Instagram insider digital magazine from Instagram with top creator features and frequently asked questions, remix option to reels (respond to other reels via video reels; similar to duets in TikTok)
- Turn off audio and video on IG Live
- May 2021: Reels and Live insights, turn off like counts option (still testing), Instagram equity update to address racial bias
And there we have it! Let’s see what else 2021 has in store for us in terms of Instagram updates.
Key Takeaways: Instagram Over the Years
One thing is clear: Instagram certainly has a lot of features that simply weren’t there at the beginning. What does that mean for users?
Be sure to take advantage of all the different features that Instagram allows you— stories, reels, IG Live, carousel posts, and more. Instagram spent years expanding on their features so that the user experience could be improved and that businesses and brands could see higher levels of success.
With an ever-evolving platform, we’re curious to see what Instagram holds in the future. If we look at past trends, they’ll continue to expand their newest features and increase offerings for businesses in terms of sales features and even more video features.
We’re ready for whatever it is!