Instagram Rolls Out Web Feeds for Desktop, Tablet Users

Online experience mirrors mobile app

Three months after making its users’ profiles available to view online, Facebook-owned photo-sharing service Instagram has rolled out an online version of its feeds. Starting on Tuesday Instagram’s 90 million monthly active users can now check out their feed just like they do on their iPhones or Android phones as well as comment on, like and view comments on others’ photos.

The move is only Instagram’s latest in the past year to make its service accessible to more users. Since launching in October 2010 Instagram had been only available to iPhone users until last April when it finally introduced an Android version. But even still, desktop and tablet users (and whoever owns a BlackBerry or Windows Phone) were iced out.

Then came the Web profiles, which made for a limited online experience akin to pre-News Feed Facebook—when users had check out individual friends’ Walls in order to see posts. The online feed brings Instagram’s Web service as close to parity with its mobile apps, with the only glaring exception being the ability to upload photos online. That will probably stay the case for a while, as the company wants to keep Instagram inherently tied to mobile experience.

“We do not offer the ability to upload from the Web as Instagram is about producing photos on the go, in the real world, in realtime. On the other hand, Instagram for the Web is focused on making the browsing experience a fast, simple and enjoyable one,” Instagram cofounder Kevin Systrom wrote in a blog post.

Tuesday’s announcement suggests that Instagram plans to retain and expand its independence from Facebook. Following the social network’s acquisition of the photo-sharing service last spring, many wondered whether Instagram would be folded into Facebook’s existing photos product. Instagram also took a step to assert its independence late last year in cutting off integration with Twitter Cards, the technology that expands a tweet to show linked content such as an Instagram photo without leaving Twitter.

Whether the online feeds open up Instagram to an online ad play, as hinted at by the company’s policy changes proposed then paused in December, remains to be seen. The online feed pages do feature a sizeable—and empty—right rail.