In mid November last year, Instagram announced that it was making changes to its API (application programming interface) policy. The new policy places tight restrictions on what the Instagram API can be used for, and institutes a permission review that is mandatory for any app or plugin that uses it. It’s going to have a big impact on many of the most common uses, and there are still a lot of unknowns. Here, we’ll outline the changes and explain the impact they might have for you.
First, the basics. An API is a set of protocols and tools which specify how software components interact. Instagram’s announced changes will change how third-party Instagram apps and plugins integrate with Instagram’s feed API. Examples of those include apps such as Chute, as well as plugins such as Instafeed that enable a feed or gallery of a user’s account, tagged photos, or a hashtag to be displayed on a website.
All apps and plugins will have until June 1, 2016 to comply with Instagram’s new policy and undergo a review process. The new rules will allow certain apps and services to have access. These “valid use cases” are apps and services that:
- help individuals share their own content with third party apps (such as photo-editing apps and services that pull from photos that you’ve posted yourself).
- help brands and advertisers understand and manage their audience, develop their content strategy, and get digital rights to media. Established apps in this area may apply for the new Instagram Partner Program.
- help broadcasters and publishers discover content, get digital rights to media, and share media using web embeds.
Instagram explains the changes as being made "to improve people’s control over their content and set up a more sustainable environment built around authentic experiences on the platform." There have been concerns about where and how Instagram users’ content has been shared and viewed. It is also evident that Instagram wants to exert greater control over people’s Instagram experience, including how it looks and functions and its ad network.
It’s still unclear how the new rules are going to play out. We’re closely following the official releases from Instagram as well as the relevant online forums and commentaries. Based on recent updates, it seems that displaying your most recent Instagram content on your website will likely still be possible and you won’t need to submit that use for review and permission. By using the client in sandbox mode, you might be able to access and display the last 20 media from your account and the accounts of up to nine other users that you’ve authorized.
Another option is to embed Instagram posts into articles and blogs on your website. You can embed your own content, as well as photos and videos of public profiles. Embedded posts give the necessary attribution by showing the username and linking back to the original post on Instagram.
Feeds that pull hashtagged content or full user galleries into websites will probably not be permitted. Neither will apps, such as Chute, that filter and pull content based on hashtags, geotagging, or computer vision technology. Apps and plugins developed for one-off projects (such as a website, hashtag campaign, or an event) won’t be granted permission either. That means any such products, platforms, or widgets will have to be developed to be used as a service across multiple projects.
We will be reviewing with each client the potential implications of the changes and working out ways to mitigate the effects. We’ll be in touch to arrange a discussion very shortly, but if you have any immediate questions please do get in touch.