Instagram Is No Longer Just a Smartphone App

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This afternoon the filtered smartphone app became more than that, launching web profile pages for its computer inclined users. These Internet native pages organize Instagram users' photos on a site that looks a lot like a Facebook profile page, as you can see above. "Your web profile features a selection of your recently shared photographs just above your profile photo and bio, giving others a snapshot of the photos you share on Instagram. In addition, you can follow users, comment & like photos and edit your profile easily and directly from the web," explains a post on Instagram's blog. What this does not mean, however, is that people without smartphones can join the site. "Instagram is focused on the production of photos from mobile devices so users are not currently able to upload from the web," explains the FAQ page. 

The idea of Instagram on the Internet appeals to users, since it's much easier to navigate on a big screen, than on a little one. And pictures look better on a computer than on a phone. (Also, it's hard to pull off perusing iPhone app at work.) The other plus: Instagram claims "Web Profiles will make it easier to browse and share content on the web for all our users."

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But browsing the profiles available—the web pages are rolling out, all users will get them by the end of the week—it's not actually that easy at all. For example, there is no search tool, which would have come in handy during Sandy. And, it doesn't look like there is a stream, either. Basically, it just looks like a web destination to look at your own profile page. For that, the photos show up in tiles below your default picture. Also, the cover photo part isn't one static image, switching out photos from one's Instagram album.

However, navigating from one profile to the other proves difficult. It either involves clicking a person who has liked a photo. Or, as Instagram suggests: "simply navigate to[username]." Maybe the search and navigation functionalities will become more apparent once the photo sharing site opens it up to more people. 

If not for the users then, who does this computer interface serve? Advertisers, perhaps. That's the impression we get from this launch, which directed us to view to check out this new feature. (Maybe Nike paid for that?) So far, the app hasn't succeeded at making money. As mobile advertising efforts make pennies to the dollar when compared to already cheap desktop ones, it makes sense that Instagram would put its photos on a big, (relatively more) valuable browser. And since these profile pages look so much like the ones on Facebook, this could also lead to something like Facebook Pages, which brands don't pay for, but make money through certain promotions Facebook sell. 

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