How Instagram Works

Other Instagram Tricks and Hints

Facebook acquired Instagram in mid-2012.
Facebook acquired Instagram in mid-2012.

Since Instagram caches your feed's photos in the cloud, just as most phone image apps, you may need to download them for offline access, such as on a computer that's disconnected from the Internet or to look at on your phone during a flight. The service makes this easy, but only for your own photos -- and by uploading photos automatically (or semi-automatically) to your Facebook Timeline, you'll have them available there as well.

But the usual social networks aren't the only sites with special uses and connectivity with Instagram. Postagram is a downloadable app that turns your Instagram photos into real postcards that the service will mail for you, for about a dollar. Instamap is a paid app that creates an extended version of the Photo Map display in Instagram, including the ability to explore your Photo Map on the iPad. Wordfoto combines your words and photos into fairly beautiful works of art. And if the available third-party apps don't do it for you, there's always the Instagram API (application programming interface), which -- true to the company's mission statement -- is available for your use in developing applications yourself.

Thanks to that open-source capability, applications -- both free and paid -- will continue to come out and be upgraded as long as Instagram's the biggest deal in photo sharing. And that could be a long time, considering that in mid-2012, Facebook itself acquired the company for nearly 1 billion dollars. Most techies called this a Microsoft-style move to conquer the competition, which makes sense, considering how much emphasis Facebook puts on integrating pictures -- including location- and date-stamps -- with its Timeline concept.

On the other hand, it's best to work with the best code and products, and even in a profit bubble, Instagram would've seemed like a sure thing. Considering most of us use Instagram and Facebook in tandem now anyway -- and users continue to rise at meteoric rates -- it just seems like a natural pairing. As long as the acquisition doesn't change the service noticeably -- which, by August 2012, it hadn't -- it's doubtful you'll see any changes to Instagram on your end, beyond a simplified interface between the two services or possibly (thanks to the influx of cash) more options and filters to experiment with.

What's for certain is that until some bright young innovator finds a way to exploit our habits and excitement about documenting and sharing our worlds in an even better or more novel way, or makes it easier somehow to translate a moment into an online experience, we'll all keep using Instagram. Between its popularity and this recent influx of cash, this app is likely here for the long haul.