Instagram has made a small move toward fulfilling one of its fans' biggest demands - making the service available on the Web, rather than solely through a mobile app. The change doesn't amount to the full-blown Web interface that users have been clamoring for, but it's a positive sign of where Instagram is heading.
There are several ways to view Instagram profiles and photos outside the company's mobile apps, but many hardcore Instagram users have long wished the company would build its own browser-based experience. Instagram made a move in that direction last Thursday, updating its website to let users interact with the community through a browser window. The new changes, while incremental, unlock the most important aspects of that experience, which the company is presumably building out in full. The updated website lets users add likes and comments from the single-photo view, plus the ability to edit user profiles. Users can also follow each other within the browser once they've logged into their Instagram account.
The update also signals that, even as a Facebook subsidiary, Instagram will continue building features that improve its core product, even if they don't do much to further integrate the two services.
Instagram is an important part of Facebook's mobile strategy and something that investors are especially eager to see grow. The photo viewer at instagram.com, although decidedly not mobile, builds a bridge from the Web to this formerly mobile-only island. The change could increase social engagement within the community, and that, in turn, could encourage new sign-ups, since only registered users of the app can interact through the website.
There's little doubt that Facebook intends to integrate Instagram more tightly with its own service, but it must do so with caution. It seems unlikely that Facebook would ever devour Instagram entirely or do anything to agitate its enormous and passionate user base. Exactly how the app will evolve remains to be seen, but the website update serves as evidence that Instagram's core product will remain intact for the foreseeable future.