What happened when Facebook bought Instagram and transformed the photo-sharing app

When Facebook made a bid to buy Instagram in 2012 for a record $1 billion, many people thought Mark Zuckerberg was making a mistake.

But the Instagram purchase turned out to be one of the best tech acquisitions of all time, helping to secure Facebook’s social media dominance for years to come. It did this by quickly imprinting its influence on the famously simple photo-sharing app, adding new features that helped it grow to more than a billion users.

This kind of change could be controversial, even internally. Case in point: Some early employees were reluctant to get rid of Instagram’s old requirement that all photos on the app be square.

“It sounds so small now, but at the time, it was a sacred cow of the company,” said Instagram co-head of product Ashley Yuki.

Today, Instagram is still struggling with the challenge of keeping up with its social media competition, namely TikTok, while trying not to lose the original quality that made the app special in the first place.

We explore the changing identity of Instagram 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 tech companies of our time. This season, Recode and The Verge teamed up over 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 Disruption of Facebook/Metaand watch the first two episodes on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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