PARK, Calif. — When Pope Francis joined Instagram at
age 79 in March, a thought crossed the mind of the tech
firm’s chief operating officer. For Marne Levine, the
moment made the company’s value to the world even
from throughout the world often hand the pontiff a
photograph as a way to bridge a language barrier.
Images, Levine noted, are the fastest way to connect and
communicate with another person. And Instagram is filled
Instagram has created is this new global language,"
Levine said during a tour of the company’s new Menlo
Park headquarters. "When you go on Instagram, it
really doesn’t matter what your generation is, what
country you’re from or what language you speak."
this month, Instagram turned 6 years old, yet another
milestone for a company that has been growing rapidly
since Facebook purchased the photo-sharing app for $1
billion in 2012.
this year reached more than 500 million users worldwide,
surpassing fellow social networks Twitter, LinkedIn,
Pinterest and Snapchat. Three weeks ago, Instagram hit
500,000 advertisers, more than doubling the amount in
is a platform that’s seeing a lot of usage, and it’s
one that advertisers are very intrigued with," said
Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst for eMarketer.
"What Instagram represents to advertisers is a fun,
creative playground and a place to show off the best
side of themselves."
ad revenue for the company is projected to grow
worldwide from $1.86 billion this year to $6.84 billion
in 2018, eMarketer estimates.
the tech firm has a lot to celebrate this year,
Instagram — which ditched its vintage camera logo for
a more minimalist look — is still trying to prove it
has evolved beyond just a place to share beautifully
filtered photos and that it can drive sales for
businesses. And as it focuses more on video, the company
gets compared to its rival Snapchat, an ephemeral
messaging app popular among teens.
think one place where Snapchat is stealing the thunder
is in video advertising," Williamson said.
released a feature this year called "Stories,"
which allows users to post photos and videos that will
disappear after 24 hours — similar to Snapchat. Much
to the chagrin of some users, the company started
sorting photos based on an algorithm instead of
Instagram’s success has been undeniable, and new
celebrities, such as rapper Kanye West and actor Tom
Hiddleston, continue to sign up for the site every year.
And as users and advertisers grow so has the company’s
Menlo Park, Instagram employees recently moved into
their own three-story office space separate from
Facebook, and the more than 65,000-square-foot building
reflects a tech firm where design and simplicity
matters. The company now has nearly 400 employees
worldwide, most of whom work in the new Gensler-designed
the lobby, a large illuminated Instagram logo is
displayed on a white wall along with a large feed that
shows videos and photos posted on the site, from
breakfast foods to outdoor adventures. Inside, employees
and visitors snap photos behind a large cloud, a moon or
Blue Bottle Coffee, a wall is filled with Polaroid
selfies. Meeting rooms are named after popular hashtags,
emojis or places such as Dogpatch or South Park, a
reference to the company’s humble beginnings.
co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger were working
out of Dogpatch Labs in San Francisco when they launched
the app in 2010. Initially, Instagram was a check-in app
called Burbn, but pivoted into a tool to share photos.
Facebook has helped fuel Instagram’s growth, Levine
said there are elements that make Instagram’s
workplace culture different from its owner.
has such a strong culture, but I think we’ve
maintained the things that have made Instagram special
from the beginning," said Levine, who joined
Instagram from Facebook. "That includes being
community first, very visually oriented, focused on
design, creativity and simplicity."
was a smart purchase for Facebook, analysts said,
because it gave the social media giant an app with
younger users, a more creative and artistic place for
people to communicate, and another property to sell ads.
When Facebook bought Instagram, the startup only had 13
for Instagram, the journey is far from over. As the
company unveils more ways for users to express
themselves, Levine said she expects Instagram will have
"fuller and more complete global language" in
are posting the highlights of their lives, but there’s
so many more moments that make up the human experience
in between," Levine said. "Those moments can
feel really raw — unscripted — or it can be a story
that you’re telling that is more planned out."