Specialized networks look to carve a niche

With the membership of Facebook now approaching almost 600 million, and more apps and features being added to it continually, it obviously remains the most preferred option for the networking purpose, apart from Twitter. So is there any space left for niche networking sites to leave their mark? Your answer may be a big NO, but that’s not the case, really! Today, I shall acquaint you with one emerging player in this space. I am referring to Instagram.

The photo-sharing network, built around a free app for iPhone, is clearly among the breakout hits of specialty networks in the recent times. The service, launched in October 2010, states that over a million users around the world have already signed up for it in a matter of three months.

According to its chief executive Kevin Systrom, “Instagram is not positioned as an alternative to Facebook, but more as a complement, to let sharing on different networks, all at once.” Many users like Davin Bentti, an Atlanta based software engineer, uses the platform to control where he uploads his images. So what is it that makes Instagram relevant to users like him?

Share only where you want: Instagram lets you share your photos on Posterous, Tumblr, Flickr, Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter. When you take a snap, you can put it on any of these platforms; importantly, only where you want them to go. For example, you may opt to skip Twitter while posting photos of a family function, if your Twitter follower base consists of mostly professional contacts.

Built-in photo filters: Its secret weapon, so to say, is the built-in photo filters that modify pictures before a user uploads them. Some effects, for sure, are corny, but a few (the soft-color Toaster or the sepia-inspired Early Bird filter, for example) are helpful when it comes to removing the often jarring colors and harsh lighting of cellphone photos. The filters make sure that the images appear much better than those put up on Facebook or some other social sites.

To get started, you need to download the free iPhone app of Instagram. Sign up for a new account and you can get into action – start the app, tap the Profile option at the screen’s bottom right, and you can find friends for sharing your select photos with, thanks to the several ways to find them that Instagram offers like:

  • Logging in to Twitter or Facebook to check lists of your friends already signed up with the Instagram service
  • Searching your cellphone’s contact list and match e-mail IDs with existing users and mark invitations to those in your list yet to sign up
  • Searching database of Instagram users/ usernames; browse a suggested users’ list as whom the service has considered worth following for their images.

If you have an Android phone, you will need to wait a bit longer, because an app for this particular operating system is still in progress.