From the beginning, Instagram had a magic formula: A feed of pretty photos taken one at a time. The product took off immediately and the company was snatched up by Facebook in a seminal billion-dollar acquisition deal. And it seems much the same today, still.
“The fundamental aspect of storytelling, of memories stored in pixel format and communicated out to your followers, that’s not going to change,” said Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of Instagram, speaking at our Code/Mobile conference.
But of course, the people closest to Instagram feel it has become a lot better than it was four years ago. “The product has actually evolved significantly. If you had to install an old version I think you’d think it looks awful and it’s missing all these things,” added Mike Krieger, co-founder and head of engineering.
Things that were added to Instagram in that time include messaging tools, more ways to tweak photos, formats like video and Hyperlapse, and an improved personalized recommendations page.
So what’s next for Instagram? Systrom and Krieger mentioned some areas of focus.
- They want to help people find other users, especially those documenting their lives in interesting and newsworthy places in real time. “We have a whole team working on that now, because I agree, there’s a lot of ways discovery could improve,” said Krieger.
- A big project for the engineering term is improving how Instagram works on low-end phones and with poor connectivity, said Krieger.
- As Instagram finally starts to pull its weight, financially speaking, the team is trying to keep ad quality high. Systrom personally reviews a printed version of every single ad before it’s shown to users in the app.
- Instagram recently decided the most important measure of how well it’s doing is “time spent,” said Systrom. So the big push is to get people to live in Instagram versus anywhere else. To that end, Instagram owner Facebook has started disclosing the metric; on the quarterly earnings call directly following our interview, it was announced that the average Instagram user spends 21 minutes in the app per day. That’s not too shabby for a stream of pretty photos.
Here’s the full video:
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.