When Facebook made an offer to buy Instagram for a record $1 billion in 2012, many people thought Mark Zuckerberg was making a mistake.
But the purchase of Instagram turned out to be one of the greatest technology acquisitions of all time, keeping Facebook’s dominance on social media secure for years to come. It did that by quickly imprinting its influence on the famously simple photo-sharing app, adding new features that helped it grow to more than 1 billion users.
This kind of change can be controversial, even internally. Case in point: Some early workers opposed doing away with Instagram’s old requirement that every photo in the app had to be square.
“It sounds so small now, but at the time it was a sacred cow of the company,” said Ashley Yuki, co-head of product on Instagram.
Today, Instagram still struggles with the challenge of keeping up with the competition on social media – namely TikTok – while trying not to lose the original quality that made the app special in the first place.
We explore Instagram’s changing identity for our third episode of the new season of Land of the Giants, Vox Media Podcast Network’s award-winning narrative podcast series about the most influential technology companies of our time. This season, recode and The edge have teamed up in seven episodes to tell the story of Facebook’s journey to become Meta, featuring interviews with current and former executives.
Listen to the third episode of Land of the Giants: The Facebook/Meta Disruption below and watch the first two episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts from.