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Instagram: Mobile-first, but not mobile-only

Three staffers weigh in on the new-to-desktop social app

In such a mobile world, where everyone wants to convert their web-based software to a mobile app, Instagram is the only example in recent memory where users pined for a desktop version of the beloved mobile app.

And now those piners pine no more. Instagram profiles are here!

Since I manage Emma’s social media channels, I'm thrilled I can now share our Instagram feed with the world. (You can find us at, by the way.)

But now I’m wondering: Has Instagram become a full-fledged social network? Is that what spurred the cry for a web app, or is it just that we expect content to be delivered through every available channel?

Here’s what some folks around the Emma house say:


Grey Garner, market strategist

I feel like Instagram is just finishing the thought on what people find valuable about their service. They started as a native mobile app, so the core user experience (taking pictures, filtering them, sharing) has to work flawlessly on a device.

They nailed that part. But a by-product of that success has been the evolution of a valuable network of friends and followers who also want to consume the photos in their stream. So from that perspective, the mobile context isn't the whole story. They needed to figure out a way to bring the experience of consuming photos up to par with the experience of easily creating and sharing them.

Instagram is now more than just a mobile app, so to me this simply reflects the evolution of the service and how people want to engage with it.

Jim Hitch, product owner

There's a big difference between 'mobile first' and 'mobile only' and this is one expression of that. Instagram is a great example of how the world is evolving and ready to accept (and love) products that have a genuine mobile DNA. A mobile first experience, for sure. But we still want (actually, expect) to consume the content anywhere. 

In other words, the expanding mobile world doesn't mean that desktop and large-screen experiences go away. Not any time soon, anyway. It just means the expectations for it change. That's why you see Instagram leading with profiles and galleries in the web app. The whole of the experience for users is richer that way. But the challenge for product creators is greater, too.

Jason O’Brien, user experience designer

I think they are making moves to the desktop just for ubiquity, e.g. if I'm working on my desktop and want to check out Instagram photos, why can't I? Of course you can, through various desktop apps, but it makes sense for them to create a cohesive experience. 

They chose to go mobile first and it paid off, but people don't interact exclusively on a phone. Interestingly enough, while Facebook is having a hard time figuring out mobile, I don't think Instagram will have a hard time figuring out the desktop. Their new profile pages are already a sign that they will craft interesting experiences for a larger screen, although patiently and thoughtfully.

Now you tell us, Instagram fans: Why do you think the desktop app is a must-have?


Did you know?

You can add filters to any image in Emma. It's just one of the ways our new editor can take your email from good to great