Instagram is releasing version 3.0 of its photo app today, and it improves on the browsing experience in several significant ways.
The boldest new feature is called "Photo Maps." All the photos you geotagged before posting them on Instagram? Photo Map collects those and pins them on an interactive world map. This is by no means a revolutionary interface--apps from Foursquare to Yelp offer something similar, and even iPhoto lets you sort images by location. But by automatically creating location-specific photo albums that can be seen by friends, Instagram has put a new twist on the feature. The maps are turned off by default, making it a privacy-friendly opt-in program. When you activate it, you can choose individual photos that do and don't appear on the map, and even edit your preferences later. Photo maps are accessed through a user's profile page, making it easy for friends to see one another's favorite stomping grounds.
You can see our trigger-happy social media editor Anjali Mullany's photographs from all over Manhattan in her Photo Map view below.
Compared to that, my Photo Map is sparser, because I tend to geotag only a few of the Instagram photos I take.
I'm not alone, it turns out. According to the New York Times, not more than 25 percent of Instagram users geotag their photographs. This update looks like a bid to get Instagrammers to geotag more frequently in the future. A trove of mobile location data could prove quite valuable to the startup that was acquired by Facebook in April.
There are a few other new tricks in Instagram's update today. The upload screen has a larger text box, making it easier to write captions. No need to tap the "load more" button, the app now offers infinite scrolling that loads as you go. And to better combat spam and abuse, individual comments can be reported and deleted in one action.
When Fast Company put Instagram founder Kevin Systrom on the Most Creative People In Business list in 2011, he said, "We think about photos like, 'This is your tweet, this is your status update.'" And now it can be your image-based homing beacon too.
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