Watch Out Kids, Here Comes

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 5 2013 2:14 PM

Watch Out Kids, Here Comes feed screenshot
The newest way to view pictures of cats on the Web.

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Instagram rose to fame and fortune as a mobile app. That it was only accessible to those who downloaded it on their phones was no doubt part of what made its predominantly young users feel like it was a community of their own. (Everyone knows mom and dad only know how to use the Internet on their computers.)

Since becoming part of the Facebook family, the prototypical "mobile-only" startup has outgrown that limitation. Last year it rolled out "photo pages" and then Web profiles. Today, it announced that it will finally offer access to your photo feed via the website as well. That means that you can now do pretty much everything on that you can do on the mobile app—except take or upload a photo.


That and filters are among the few remaining distinctions between the features available on Instagram and those offered through Facebook, which released its own mobile camera app last spring. As I reported last week, Facebook is fast becoming a mobile-first company in its own right, with more users now reaching it via mobile devices than via the Web.

Instagram's further colonization of the Web should reinforce its ascent to mainstream status. But as the once-trendy startup's convergence with its parent company continues, people—especially the young and reckless—may start to question its raison d'etre.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.


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