The Instagram Holdup
Development has currently stopped on Photogram (aka Metrogram or Instagram for Windows Phone) for the reasons outlined below.
First off is the name change. About a week after I put some screenshots up of my app, I received an email from Nazer Aminou, the author of a new WP7 app he had submitted to the marketplace called Metrogram. He said that he just discovered my app and apologized for the duplication in the naming. Probably my fault for putting up screenshots early but I certainly don’t have any rights on a name. So to be distinctive and not create confusion I changed the name to Photogram.
Next is the functionality. I’ve taken a stance that I want to provide the full user experience on the Windows Phone 7 for existing and new users of Instagram. After all, what’s an API for if you can’t offer an alternative to “official” apps. Unfortunately Instagram has taken the position to not provide upload capabilities in their API at this time. The reason they cite on the developer site (http://instagram.com/developer/endpoints/media/) is they want to “fight spam & low quality photos”. While I don’t agree that not providing an upload API has anything to do with fighting spam and surely iPhone users take crappy pictures too, it is their playground and their rules.
I made a plea to Instagram and got a response in the form of a few email exchanges with Kevin Systrom the CEO. Unfortunately they are still standing firm and not offering upload capabilities or white-listing any application at this point. I have my own thoughts around why this is but the short of it is that they are not white-listing any applications at this point. Kevin did tell me to “keep in touch” but that doesn’t help the situation at hand today.
If it were only uploading that was the roadblock then maybe I would be swayed to release what I have and people would have to find another way to get pictures into the system. However it’s more than that. You see, there’s also no “Register User” API available so the experience of Instagram on Windows Phone is impossible without first creating an account and the only way you can do that currently is through the official application running on an iPhone/iPad/iTouch device. There isn’t even a way to create an account on the website.
To me, this is a deal breaker. Without the ability to create an account or upload it means the only audience for the app are either a) users who already have an iPhone and willing to create an account that way (or already have an account created) or b) users who want to just browse other peoples photos but not be able to up-vote or comment on them.
People have written and said there are ways to upload photos and yes, I know how to do this however I want adoption of this application to be fair. Previous attempts to do an end-round on the Instagram folks just resulted in that application being blocked. If upload and user registration comes to Photogram (or any Windows Phone app for that matter) I want it to be on the up and up through official API access, not some backdoor sneak. Please help me and others in getting a full-featured API made available for Instagram.
To me that’s a pretty distilled user experience and not something I can fight for at the moment. So that’s the reason behind why the app isn’t going to progress any further right now. Should they open up both the user creation and upload capabilities for other platforms to take advantage of then I might come back to this. I’m all about “filling the gap” on Windows Phone and want to create apps that will either supplement “official” ones or give users the experience that a non-existent official app would if there isn’t one. I will continue to do this and you can follow those efforts on Twitter via @bsimser or @simstools. We’ll also announce new apps here on the site as we complete them.
There are two apps in the marketplace that should fill the gap with Instagram in the meantime. Metrogram you already know about from above (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-CA/apps/5dec28da-2857-4b28-95fc-d436ed50f7da) and there’s another one that popped up in the last few weeks called InstaCam (http://www.windowsphone.com/en-CA/apps/b606738b-83a7-4c43-96fd-3c964de7f938). Both look good and offer fairly competent features (InstaCam seems to have more sharing features than Instagram but both are free so I encourage you to check them out). Note that InstaCam does allow users to register but they’re actually letting users register by sending them to the developers registration page. It’s perfectly fair and you end up getting an Instagram account so you can like photos, comment on items, and even upload (using your iPhone app) but it’s still not a real registration. However InstaCam does do it’s registration via OAuth and the “official” website so it’s safe. You don’t have to worry about them taking your username/password.