How Instagram Can Become Bigger Than Facebook

Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app, hit 100 million users earlier this year, triple its user base since Facebook acquired the startup for $1 billion in 2012. With such unprecedented growth, will Instagram become bigger than Facebook?

"By definition, if it keeps growing at this rate, yes, it will be bigger," Instagram cofounder and CEO Kevin Systrom told Fast Company. "It will be the biggest thing in the world."

Systrom shared the revealing comments on our recent trip to Instagram's office, as part of Fast Company's feature on the company's first year at Facebook. Systrom's words serve not only as a sign of his own strong belief in his blossoming social network but also as a larger symbol of the potential for Instagram inside its parent company. Facebook, with roughly 1.1 billion users, is the world's largest social network, but there is concern that its popularity is waning, especially among younger users, who are migrating to up-and-coming services like Snapchat. But with Instagram still breaking out from under its yoke, Facebook can be sure it made the right bet on the startup. After all, Systrom isn't resting on his laurels. "Now, will we continue to grow at this rate [and outgrow Facebook]? Different question," he says.

Perhaps it's irrelevant whether Instagram passes Facebook in popularity. (Is Disney upset that Pixar's Monsters University crushed Disney's The Lone Ranger at the box office? Well, maybe.) What's important is that Instagram is keeping a new generation of users interested in Facebook products--while stealing engagement from its competitors. Reports indicate that Instagram has topped Twitter in mobile engagement. And more recently, Instagram's video service is said to be growing fast in popularity, though reports vary whether it is outpacing Vine, Twitter's video-sharing service.

Inside the company, as we outlined in our feature on the two companies, the cross-pollination between Instagram and Facebook indicates the two are taking a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats approach to product. As Instagram cofounder Mike Krieger put it, perhaps more diplomatically than Systrom when asked whether Instagram will outgrow Facebook: "I don’t know--that's a good question. I think both of them are basically limitless in size, so maybe one day they’ll be the same size?"

[Image: Flickr user Michael Cory]

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9 Comments

  • CQ

    Instagram, snapChat, facebook; you're mixing apples with bananas and tomatoes

    Neither instagram nor snapChat have the potential of becoming as big as Facebook without them becoming something LIKE facebook.
    The reason is simple, facebook is much more versatile and complete and  would be IMO the equivalent of the introduction of the smartphone, by combining several platforms into one (myspace + instagram + mail + chat + twitter + ...)

    Instagrams immense recent growth is just natural for a relative new and popular and I'm sure that if you look into other trend apps like candy crush, snapchat, whatsapp, farmville (on FB),  ... you will find a very similar new customer development rate. 

    And as for success, I would look much more at candy crush who is blowing now over USD 600k a day, vs instagram that is making .... are they making any money?

  • Holly Nester

    The teenagers are abandoning FB for Instagram...that is what I'm hearing from nieces and nephews

  • Silverstream

    Simple, teenagers want their own unsupervised hangout. Doesn't matter if it doesn't have features or really isn't built to be a social media complete platform. If instagram becomes popular with the mainstream, the kids will leave it too.

  • InstaCrap

    The growth of Instgram is just from new users checking out the service. Once they see what a pain it is to view the content (jumping off to a separate site, not viewable on mobile without an account, can't zoom in, etc.) they will abandon ship. Instagram is far too limited in my opinion. There are a ton of other apps that give better effects and allow for much better sharing. 

  • uıʍpooƃʞɔıu

    I'm super confused on how the "waning of Facebook" is followed with "being replaced by new technologies like SnapChat" as if those are in any way comparable in user experience, purpose or usage. This is an awful read. Put politely. No offense.

  • Nuffer

    Instagram is a great platform but it isn't nearly as advertiser friendly as FB. If Instagram wants to be ble to pay the bills for all the future growth, it needs to consider releasing an API that allows advertisers to do more with their own pages as well as offering more innovative ad units for mobile and desktop.

  • Marlene Louis

    Greeting sir for what I understanding Instagram will be the faster larger connection for the companies around world.