Instagram Cuts Off Support For Third-Party Apps That Can Access Your Photos

19 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Instagram Kills Off Feed Reading Apps.

An entire industry of apps have popped up around Instagram over the years, not including Instagram’s own apps like Hyperlapse, Layout, and Boomerang.Only a tiny fraction of Instagram feed reading happens in third-party apps, so Instagram is shutting down its feed API to make feature development nimbler and create a more consistent user experience.The media-sharing social network said in a post on its developer blog that it launched its first Instagram API in 2011 as the startup knew it wouldn’t be able to build all of the features its community would want.

Some of these apps help you edit and share photos to Instagram, while others give you a way to look at your feed on platforms Instagram doesn’t support, like Apple TV. Today, the service announced major revisions to its API policy, effectively killing off an entire class of Instagram-reader apps and instituting serious restrictions on any apps that remain. It’s those latter apps that will be most affected by Instagram’s new API change, which cuts off access to any app that wants access to your entire Instagram feed. According to the announcement, the changes are being made “to improve people’s control over their content and set up a more sustainable environment built around authentic experiences on the platform. It involves listing exactly what’s allowed with its APIs, an app permission review process that makes Instagram a gated platform, and a new developer testing sandbox.

Going forward, Instagram’s platform will only permit photo editing apps and ones like Tinder that let you pull in your own Instagrams (but not your feed), brand and ad management apps, and tools for media and broadcasters. What’s more, starting December 3, Instagram will institute a review process that’ll take a look at new and existing apps before full API access is granted. Some developers are already weighing in: “Instagram announced some substantial changes to their API yesterday,” wrote developer Tim Johnsen, creator of Apple TV Instagram reader Tangram, in a Wednesday blog post. “I respect their decision to do so, it’s their product and they’ve got to keep it great! Last but certainly not least, Instagram is launching a new Sandbox Mode that’ll give developers a place to privately build and test their apps using Instagram’s APIs during the app review process. One might think that restricting access like this is how Twitter alienated its developer community, but Facebook hasn’t ever made a secret of its intentions to prioritize the user experience.

The move comes just days after a third-party Instagram reader called InstaAgent was caught transmitting usernames and passwords in clear text, potentially compromising hundreds of thousands of users. The changes come a week or so after it was revealed that a third-party app called Who Viewed Your Profile – InstaAgent was harvesting its users’ login credentials and sending them to a remote server in cleartext. Even when it comes to advertising, it isn’t going to let just any ad format be inserted on the site — it is going to take its time granting access, while recognizing the importance of its end users. Instagram itself wasn’t responsible for the security failure, and specifically warns users against allowing access to third-party apps like InstaAgent for just this reason. The company tells me that compared to the 400 million-user Instagram, even the most popular Instagram client has 0.5% or fewer as many monthly active users — around 2 million.

Instagram didn’t specifically mention InstaAgent as the catalyst for change although given the timing and the nature of the new policies, it’s certainly implied. Still, it was a serious security problem for many users on the service, only resolved when the app was forcibly removed from iOS and Google Play app stores.

The company said users are concerned that “it can be unclear where their content is being shared and viewed,” but there were also recent security concerns. It will benefit Instagram by letting it focus engineering and design resources on building for its core platforms instead of worrying how new features or changes would work on little-used clients.

Instagram will also earn extra good will from users, as they won’t have to worry about their images being cropped wrong, videos being mis-looped, or their text description edits not showing up. It’d sure be nice for Instagram to step up and give iPad users an official app to replace the ones it’s killing off, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if it’s ignored the device this long. The changes follow other platform policy enforcements from Instagram, including a crack down on apps using “Insta” or “Gram” in their name, cutting off Find Friends access to competitors like Phhhoto. Though it may burn some cred with developers today, Instagram is streamlining itself so it can keep adapting to the fast-changing world of visual communication.

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