From rooftop bashes and acquisition talks to staff clashes and layoffs, Hipstamatic’s founders and ex-employees describe the startup’s losing struggle to keep pace with Instagram, Facebook, and others in the white-hot photo-sharing space. Read the three-part series from start to finish.
As with many web innovations, Flickr, the site that became synonymous with online photo sharing, started out as one idea only to pivot to something completely different.
Ten years ago, newlyweds Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield were developing a massively multiplayer online game called Game Neverending. Both were early bloggers with a creative streak and a flair for literature, and were intrigued by the concept of a virtual world ruled by social interactions, a precursor to World of Warcraft and Second Life. The way Fake (her real name, which has caused countless hassles at airports) once described it to me, Game Neverending sounds pretty far out. Part whimsy (a player would find a wombat whistle, blow it and baby wombats would cuddle up against her) part meta-reality: Users could work alone or together to create a business or product, raise venture capital, hype it, and everyone would grow rich. Players could cheer up one another by sprinkling magic sparkle powder in a crowded room. You can see screencaps of the game prototype here.
Hipstamatic is set to unveil a partnership with Instagram that allows photos taken on the camera app, which enables users to snap professional-looking pictures with stylized films and vintage-era lenses, to be ported directly into Instagram’s network with just one click. It represents the first time Instagram has opened up this platform API to third parties, and marks a move toward letting photos freely flow into Instagram’s network from outside sources.
"When we launched, it was all about Facebook and Flickr and Twitter, and now we’re seeing a huge shift in our user base toward Instagram," says Hipstamatic cofounder and CEO Lucas Buick. "We’ve never been a social networking company, but we clearly benefit from social networks. So this will be the first app outside of Instagram that lets you into their network. That’s pretty cool for us."