Pondering Kevin Systrom's idea of Instagram as a way of "tuning into any place on Earth"
What is Instagram, actually? Some people focus on the software itself, primarily the filters that allow users to change the contrast and color of their photos. Then, there are people like Alexis who think Instagram is about the social network that formed around the photo tools. But what about Kevin Systrom, the company's founder? He has (had?) a vision for the company that wasn't actually centered on the relationship between people, but between people and places. He thought of the future of Instagram as allowing you to "tun[e] into any place on Earth."
Systrom revealed that vision in an interview with Digg founder Kevin Rose that was published on Rose's Foundation series earlier this year. It's worth looking at a bit more of the exchange to see what he's talking about.
Here's the video, cued to the exchange:
And here's the transcript:
Kevin Rose: "What's the grand vision that's bigger than filters and just sharing simple photos with friends?"
Systrom: "I think you alluded to it earlier when you said you could explore the world. Imagine a service that collects all of the visual data that gets produced all around the world so you can tune in to anyplace on earth to see exactly what's happening, whether that is a friend's birthday party that you're missing or a wedding happening that you didn't go to or a riot breaking out overseas. Or something as personal as a baby's first steps.
These are all moments that are happening around the world and that we capture with our cameras, right, and that is visual media that before was sitting on someone's camera or phone and just sitting there. What happens in the world when you take all that data and combine it in a network?
Rose: Whether they know each other or not.
S: Whether they know each other or not.
Rose: I was at the 49ers football game the other night and there were probably a couple thousand people taking Instagram photos with no common tag, but
you have the timestamp, you have the GPS coordinates locked in the photo. You could bundle those together to make some way to browse through those?
S: Right, so imagine being able to tune-in to anything on Earth? Whenever it happens.
R: So, tune-in sounds like video?
S: It could be video in the future, but that's why I describe this as visual media. At the end of the day it is about beautiful imagery. But it's really more about useful imagery. Useful can mean beautiful or entertaining. And that's what it's really about. How do you take all the visual data from around the world and bring it to one place and what do you make of that? Is it your way to get news now? Is it your way to share things with friends? Is it your way to experience events you wouldn't have otherwise? For example, I follow Banana Republic and Burberry... It's a new way of shopping. So all of a sudden you're seeing things and products coming by. Audi, I get to follow Audi's cars as they get launched at car shows. It's not simply about a latte and some art. It's more than that because I can experience things from all different vantage points. And that's why I think what we're doing is so impactful in the long run. It is a universal medium that allows you to explore the world and that is something that the world has been asking for for a long time.
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