How Instagram Beat Hipstamatic at Its Own Game

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The same year Instagram got bought up for $1 billion dollars, Hipstamatic, the original retro filter-based photo sharing app laid off all but six of its employees because of one huge oversight: Social. Founded a whole year earlier, Hipstamatic saw the potential in filtered photo sharing on the iPhone. It was named Apple's app of the year in 2010 and a New York Times's photographer used it to take award winning photos of Afghanistan. But, when Instagram came along and took the app and turned it into a social network, founder Louis Buick had no interest in following that lead, reports Fast Company's Austin Carr in the first part of a three-part series on Hipstamatic. "As Instagram started to build, everyone was like, 'You guys should do this or that,'" Buick told Carr. "That's not what we wanted to build." Buick eventually attempted some social things, but perhaps because of that original hesitancy, those things failed. Hipstamatic peaked at 4 million users last July, Instagram has 15 million users, a lot of whom are more loyal than Twitter's. Eventually, Hipstamatic admitted defeat, announcing a partnership with Instagram last March that pushed its photos through their network. 

The photo-app had another opportunity to save itself, but again failed to learn from Instagram. In January, Twitter went to the photo-sharing app with an acquisition deal, sources tell Carr. Unlike Instagram, which took just 3 days to negotiate its sale to Facebook, however, Buick couldn't quickly close the deal. 

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As Instagram continues to enjoy its success and ubiquity, Hipstamatic is looking for its place in the retro lens filtered photo-sharing world, a competitive niche market that Instagram already owns. The lay-offs, Buick says had nothing to do with not making enough money (as first reported) but restructuring, as he explained to The Next Web back in August. "We’ve shipped very little in the past 9 months, but by streamlining our organizational structure, we are planning to ship more products and updates in the next few months as we reset and rebuild our team," he wrote. If not social, we wonder what that reset will look like. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.