Instagram is considered one of the most popular social media platforms today, as there are more than a billion people who are using the brand’s app or website. What makes Instagram stand out among the rest is its photo-focused features that allow users to customize the look of their photos using filters while also creating hashtags and tagging the location where they took the photos.
In April 2012, Instagram was acquired by Facebook Inc. (now known as Meta Platforms, Inc.) for $1 billion in cash and stock, which is equivalent to $1,184,000,000 in 2021. Despite the acquisition, Instagram is still quite different from Facebook in terms of features, although the company has allowed people to share on Facebook the photos or videos they uploaded on Instagram.
Because of how popular Instagram is, it already had a significant impact in pop culture and even in the lives of many people. To know more, here is the origins of Instagram and its impact on pop culture.
The Origins of Instagram
Instagram started as a mobile check-in app called Burbn, which was created by computer programmer Kevin Systrom and software engineer Michel Krieger in 2010.  On Burbn, users can check in to a place or event that they are going to, and they would also be able to share photos of the place or event. The name of the app is inspired by Systrom’s appreciation for bourbons and whiskeys.
In March of the same year, Kevin Systrom was able to close a $500,000 seed funding round (wherein investors can invest capital in a startup company) with two investment firms, namely Andreessen Horowitz and Baseline Ventures, in order to work on improving their Burbn app.
Upon realizing that Burbn is too similar to another app called Foursquare, Systrom and Krieger decided to focus on making a photo-sharing app that enables users to upload and share photos with friends and family members online. Burbn was then renamed to “Instagram,” which is a portmanteau (a combination of words) of “instant camera” and “telegram.”
The very first post on Instagram is a photo of South Beach Harbor in California, and the photo was posted by Mike Krieger at 5:26 PM on July 16, 2010.  Systrom would later upload a photo of his dog at 9:24 PM on the same day that Krieger posted his photo.
On October 6, 2010, the Instagram app for iOS devices was released through Apple’s App Store. Throughout 2011 and 2012, Instagram would get funding from numerous investors, including Benchmark Capital, Adam D’Angelo (an internet entrepreneur), and Jack Dorsey (the co-founder of Twitter). On April 3, 2012, the Instagram app became available for Android.
Facebook’s Acquisition of Instagram
On April 9, 2012, just a few days after Instagram became available for Android devices, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock (which is equivalent to more than $1 billion in 2021), although Facebook planned to make Instagram independently managed and separate from the company’s main app and website. The deal closed on September 6, 2012, which was before Facebook’s scheduled IPO (initial public offering) that allowed people to publicly buy shares of the company. 
In November of 2012, the programmers and designers at Instagram created website profiles, which allowed people to view their profiles and other people’s profiles through a web browser like Google Chrome and Internet Explorer. Before, Instagram was only available through mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, but with the launch of website profiles, Instagram can be accessed with a laptop or desktop computer.
Changes to Instagram Over the Years
Instagram introduced the ability for users to like comments on December 9, 2016, and this feature enabled better interaction between users who follow each other. Instagram also introduced a feature wherein users can disable comments on their posts.
A standalone video app called IGTV (short for Instagram TV) was launched on June 20, 2018. The app has features that let users edit and customize videos that they upload on the app and on the main Instagram app. IGTV would later be shut down on March 1, 2022, in order for the company to focus on Instagram Reels, which are shorter videos that are uploaded on the primary Instagram app. All the videos created and uploaded through IGTV were integrated into Instagram.
In 2019, Facebook announced the removal of the like counter or like counts on Instagram posts. Through the said feature, users can choose whether they can let others view the number of likes on their posts or not. It was also in 2019 when Instagram launched a separate app called Threads, which is similar to another app called Snapchat, where users can communicate not only through messages but also through video chats. Instagram will discontinue Threads in December 2021, as not a lot of users use the app.
In August 2020, Instagram announced the creation of “Instagram Reels,” which was introduced in order for the app to compete with TikTok, a video-sharing site that was created in China and became popular for the short videos uploaded by its users. Much like TikTok, Instagram Reels also allows users to upload videos that are typically short and concise.
On July 5, 2023, Meta (formerly Facebook) introduced a new version of Threads. Meta’s version of Threads is a social network platform that is connected to Instagram and enables users to create public short-form blog posts similar to the tweets created on the social media app called Twitter (now known as X).
Instagram’s Impact on Pop Culture
Instagram has had a significant impact on pop culture, as it has been used, mentioned, and referenced in various forms of media and entertainment. One of the most notable uses of Instagram in entertainment is the music video for the song “Anything Could Happen” by English musician Ellie Goulding, which was released on August 9, 2012. The music video used fan-submitted Instagram photographs that used filters in order to show the words or lyrics of the song. There were more than 1,200 photos that were submitted for the music video. 
A documentary film focused on Instagram, which is titled “Social Animals,” was released in 2018. The film is about the story of three teenagers who are trying to find fame, love, attention, and acceptance by using Instagram. Social Animals centers on the effects of Instagram on a lot of teenagers, especially those who measure their self-worth through the number of likes, comments, and followers that they get from their social media accounts.
The term “Instagram model” also became popular in the 2010s. The term is used for models who gained fame and success through the Instagram app. Some of the most notable Instagram models include cosplayer (a model who dresses up in costumes) Anna Faith and fitness model Jen Selter. The Instagram models should not be confused with models that have used the social media platform to promote their collaborations and deals with various fashion brands, as Instagram models didn’t have a lot of experience modeling before they became famous.
Instapoetry is also a term that was used frequently in the 2010s. In case you don’t know, Instapoetry is a style of poetry that is published through photos uploaded on Instagram. These “Instapoems” are usually short in length so that they can fit well in a photo. The poems are then decorated with filters and symbols to make them look more appealing to Instagram users.
Various places have become tourist spots thanks to Instagram, as photos of these locations have gone viral on the app. Some of these locations include the Banff National Park (Alberta, Canada), the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico), Cambria (California, USA), Alsace (France), and Cappadocia (Turkey). There is even one particular location nicknamed “Instagram Pier” because of its popularity on Instagram. This “Instagram Pier” is the Western District Public Cargo Working Area, which is located in Sai Wan, Hong Kong.
There are also plenty of celebrities that have millions of followers on Instagram. As of 2023, the most followed celebrity on Instagram is Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, who has more than 530 million followers. Interestingly, the most-liked photo on Instagram is a carousel or collection of photos uploaded in a single post by Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi, who posted the photos after winning the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The collection of photos has more than 74 million likes. 
In 2022, Instagram was the second most downloaded app for both iOS and Android devices. Because of the app’s popularity, it wouldn’t be surprising if it would still have billions of users in the next ten years.
 Lagorio-Chafkin, C. (2012, April 9). Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, Founders of Instagram. Inc. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from https://www.inc.com/30under30/2011/profile-kevin-systrom-mike-krieger-founders-instagram.html
 Bruner, R. (2016, July 16). A Brief History of Instagram’s Fateful First Day. Time Magazine. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from https://time.com/4408374/instagram-anniversary/
 Segall, L. (2012, April 9). Facebook acquires Instagram for $1 billion. CNN Money. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from https://money.cnn.com/2012/04/09/technology/facebook_acquires_instagram/
 Colbert, A. (2012, August 9). Singer Composes Music Video From Fans’ Instagram Photos. Mashable. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from https://mashable.com/archive/ellie-goulding-instagram-music-video
 Hassan, B.N. (2022, December 20). Lionel Messi’s World Cup Instagram post breaks record to become most-liked ever. Yahoo! Sport. Retrieved September 20, 2023, from https://uk.sports.yahoo.com/news/messi-world-cup-instagram-post-081118403.html