Instagram Shuts Down Developers, Plans Official API

Adam DuVander, January 12th, 2011

InstagramYou may remember the full featured, unpublished API from popular mobile photo sharing site Instagram that we covered last month. The interface was reverse engineered by a developer and today Instagram asked anyone using its private, unofficial Instagram API to stop. At the same time, it announced a beta public API would be coming soon.

One third party service built on top of Instagram is Followgram, which bills itself as an Instagram directory. The site is currently down until “Instagram releases a public API.”

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has a thoughtful response to developers about the company’s moves to stop developers from using its API:

An API is a contract with the developer world. It says “Here’s how to interact with our system, the set of rules, guidelines, etc. that come along with it, and we promise not to change the endpoints/responses without notice.”. The current private API changes on a daily basis. Endpoints are added & removed – response formats are changed with new client releases, etc. In other words, the private API’s stability and isn’t fit for anyone to use except for the developers that understand what’s going on with those changes. When 3rd parties develop using this API, their sites will inevitably break when we change things. We don’t think this is a good experience for developers or for users.

The reasoning brings up a good point and shows that Instagram does not want to tread lightly into becoming an API provider. Systrom also mentioned receiving user questions about their images showing up on other sites, something that Instagram would hopefully make clear with privacy settings before an API is in place.

Still, this shows that developers will find a way to use a service if it’s interesting enough, with or without an official API. That’s how the mashup was born, after all.

Systrom says Instagram is committed to having an API, but on their own schedule:

We are absolutely 100% behind supporting developers that want to build on top of Instagram… soon. We’re currently working on our first release of an API (as we mentioned in a TechCrunch interview in late december when we crossed 1 million users). There’s clearly a lot of excitement behind building things for Instagram, and I only wish that we could have an API out today, but unfortunately it’s harder than simply flipping a switch.

A beta version of the public Instagram API may be available within “the next week or so,” according to Systrom. Current Instagram mashups like Followgram would likely be the first accepted into the program.

via Mike Maney

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

13 Responses to “Instagram Shuts Down Developers, Plans Official API”

January 12th, 2011
at 1:37 pm
Comment by: Tweets that mention Instagram Shuts Down Developers, Plans Official API -- Topsy.com

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Salazar @ Teelook, W_Log and others. W_Log said: Instagram Shuts Down Developers, Plans Official API: You may remember the full featured… http://goo.gl/fb/fCPdM [...]

January 19th, 2011
at 3:24 pm
Comment by: Instagram Photo Book [Idea]

[...] Rogue Instagram API was exposed using the same mechanims the IPhone app uses, but was quickly shut down by the company. Without an Instagram API, it makes building a photo book difficult, but not [...]

January 19th, 2011
at 5:50 pm
Comment by: Asiajin » Listagram And Instastream – Two Instagram Mash-ups From Japan

[...] Both services are said to use unofficial API of Instagram. Instagram is trying to shut off the unofficial API users. [...]

January 26th, 2011
at 1:00 pm
Comment by: Photo Sharing Heats Up, PicPlz Offers Photo Filter API

[...] like TwitPic, YFrog and others. The success of Instagram even led to an unofficial API, which was subsequently shut down to be eventually replaced with its official API. The photo sharing services space seems ripe for [...]

January 26th, 2011
at 8:45 pm
Comment by: Photo Sharing Heats Up, PicPlz Offers Photo Filter API | Another Newyork Times

[...] like TwitPic, YFrog and others. The success of Instagram even led to an unofficial API, which was subsequently shut down to be eventually replaced with its official API. The photo sharing services space seems ripe for [...]

February 1st, 2011
at 3:57 pm
Comment by: Hey Mobile, Thanks for All the APIs | Another Newyork Times

[...] mistake an API for a developer community. That’s the message Instagram sent when it squelched some app using its private API. Though it is technically possible to use the API, the company was wary of [...]

February 7th, 2011
at 10:57 pm
Comment by: Instagram API Accepting Sign-ups for Public Beta

[...] December we shared the full-featured, unpublished Instagram API. By January, Instagram shut down apps built on that private API and announced it planned an official [...]

February 8th, 2011
at 12:15 am
Comment by: Instagram Launches API

[...] comes just under a month after the company asked developers to stop using a rogue API that was reverse engineered by an outside [...]

February 8th, 2011
at 12:16 am
Comment by: Instagram Launches API | API Evangelist

[...] comes just under a month after the company asked developers to stop using a rogue API that was reverse engineered by an outside [...]

February 24th, 2011
at 1:38 pm
Comment by: Once Slow to Expose Its API, Instagram Goes Real-time

[...] late last year by sniffing the official app’s calls to the server. Later the company shut down some mashups using the unofficial API. The public beta of Instagram’s official API was announced earlier [...]

March 10th, 2011
at 4:05 pm
Comment by: History of APIs – Instagram API | API Evangelist

[...] January Instagram shut down the rogue API and announced it was building one of its [...]

March 18th, 2011
at 2:10 pm
Comment by: Instagram Photo Book [Idea] | Mimeo Labs

[...] Rogue Instagram API was exposed using the same mechanims the IPhone app uses, but was quickly shut down by the company. Without an Instagram API, it makes building a photo book difficult, but not [...]

March 18th, 2011
at 2:47 pm
Comment by: Instagram Launches API | Mimeo Labs

[...] comes just under a month after the company asked developers to stop using a rogue API that was reverse engineered by an outside [...]

Follow the PW team on Twitter

ProgrammableWeb
APIs, mashups and code. Because the world's your programmable oyster.

John Musser
Founder, ProgrammableWeb

Adam DuVander
Executive Editor, ProgrammableWeb. Author, Map Scripting 101. Lover, APIs.