Instagram offers ‘iPhone hooks’ to interact with other apps

Jun 2, 2011

Instagram has experienced something of a meteoric rise in popularity.

At TechCrunch’s Disrupt convention last week, Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom reported the iOS-based photography social network has broken 4.25 million users, and is currently processing 10 photos per second.

For those unfamiliar, Instagram is part camera app, part photo-sharing service. Snapping photos within the app allows users to apply one of a number of filters, as well as add a tilt-shift effect, before posting to the Instagram network. The app also integrates with Facebook and Twitter, allowing for instantly sharing photos on those networks, as well.

But one thing Instagram doesn’t offer is a writable application programming interface, or API, that would allow other apps to post photos to the network. But the company has released a workaround that allows other apps to interact with Instagram, albeit with a lot more work, and it’s already being used by other iOS photography apps.

TechCrunch has the story, which states that Instagram hasn’t released an API yet because it wants to keep the service from being flooded with low-quality photos. But it doesn’t want to bar users from adding their various other photos to the ever-growing world of Instagram, so the company has created something it calls “iPhone hooks” that other apps can use to send photos along to Instagram. To hear it described, it’s a lot like copying and pasting a photo to and from Instagram, and at least one app, 100 Cameras in 1, is already using it.

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Developers can check out this page that details how iPhone hooks for Instagram can be added to other apps. Using iPhone hooks, apps can open Instagram to pull up specific photos, users, locations or tags from within the social network – passing information from Instagram to the interacting app – or send photos from other apps straight into Instagram. That saves users the extra and somewhat tedious steps of opening the iPhone’s Camera Roll from within Instagram to import photos to the social network’s photo stream.

Here’s a quote from the Tech Crunch story that adds some perspective:

“Co-founder Kevin Systrom compares this functionality to the copy and paste functionality baked into iOS. But again, this is for images, not text. ‘We wanted to make it easier for other iPhone apps (and iPhone web-apps) to hook into Instagram to open a particular item or post a photo through our app,’ co-founder Mike Krieger says. Yes, you read that correctly, this can work with web-based apps too.”

So far, 100 Cameras in 1 is using the iPhone hooks functionality, but Instagram has opened the programming to anyone, and the company says it is also working with other app developers on additional partnerships. It seems Instagram fans can expect even more diverse, interesting photos to hit the network very soon.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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