November 25, 2015
Instagram, the immensely popular social networking platform where you can share pictures and videos with other users, is shutting down its feed API to make feature development nimbler and create a more consistent user experience. The Facebook owned company took this decision as only a tiny fraction of Instagram feed reading happens in third-party apps. The move is part of a revamp of the Instagram platform. It involves listing exactly what’s allowed with its APIs, an app permission review process that makes Instagram a gated platform, and a new developer testing sandbox.
The platform will only permit photo editing apps, brand and ad management apps, tools for media and broadcasters and ones like Tinder that pulls in your own Instagrams (but not your feed). Existing apps need to comply by June 1st, 2016, and the policies and reviews will go into effect for new apps starting December 3rd, 2015.
The change will benefit Instagram by letting it focus on engineering and design resources for its core platforms instead of worrying how new features or changes would work on little-used clients. It will also earn extra good will from users, as they won’t have to worry about their text description edits not showing up, videos being mis-looped or images being cropped wrong.
Developers of Instagram clients will be hit hard because of the change, especially those for platforms Instagram doesn’t natively support like iPad and desktop. Apps that will have to change by June 1st include Retro, Flow, Padgram, and Pictacular for iPad, and Webbygram, Webstagram, Instagreat, and Itsdagram for desktop. The new policy will also strike down any service offering auto-following, liking, or commenting.
Instagram says this will “set up a more sustainable environment built around authentic experiences on the platform” for developers in the categories it does allow. Users detracting from good apps will not feel burned out by useless apps. Plus, Instagram will be able to devote more resources to support the refined set of APIs it does offer. It will launch a new Sandbox development environment to make testing for its platform easier, where developers can experiment with full API access for up to 10 testers.