Instagram loses half of its active users in a month

Super Storm Sandy Instagram pic by TitiYuThe fall out from Instagram’s changes to its Terms of Service (ToS) at the end of last year has proved far more calamitous for the Facebook-owned Photo app than first imagined. Instagram appears to have lost half of its active users in a month, according to new data.

The numbers of active users seem to have fallen from 40 million to 17 million, according to App traffic monitoring firm AppStats.  That seems very high and I wonder if some of these people will come back.

Instagram remains very appealing in terms of the kind of people who are on it and how it is also starting to acquire a news element to it as we saw recently with this story: “How news can break on Instagram as John Terry reveals Lampard is leaving Chelsea”.

It does also say that Instagram is continuing to acquire new users as well, as people acquire the right kind of smartphone (you still can’t get Instagram on a Blackberry).

The fallout, however, shows how risky it can be for social media firms to tinker with copyright. People really do care about this kind of stuff and particularly when the copyright is their own. With pictures, and social media we personally create, that is a huge issue and needs to be handled very carefully.

For those who didn’t read too much about Instagram’s proposed changes to its Terms of Service, which go into effect this week. Today it sent users this email:

“Our community has grown by many millions of people since we wrote our original Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. As we announced in December, we have updated our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. These policies also now take into account the feedback we received from the Instagram Community. We’re emailing you to remind you that, as we announced last month, these updated policies will be in effect as of January 19th, 2013.

“You can read our blog post that highlights some of the key updates. And remember, these updates don’t change the fact that you own your photos that you post on Instagram, and our privacy controls work just as they did before.”

Initially when Instagram announced the changes it gave itself licensing rights to sell to third parties any photographs posted on the app, particularly to its parent company Facebook. It changed that, but one passage in particular that upset many users:

“Instagram does not claim ownership of any content that you post on or through the service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the content that you post on or through the service.”

Instagram said that its updated privacy policy was designed to help Instagram function more easily as part of Facebook by being able to share info between the two groups.

“This means we can do things like fight spam more effectively, detect system and reliability problems more quickly, and build better features for everyone by understanding how Instagram is used,” Instagram wrote in a blog post.

However, there was also another reason for this if you read down into its ToS:

“Some or all of the srvice may be supported by advertising revenue,” Instagram writes. “To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

That’s the change from putting ads alongside your pics to using your pics as ads — without a cent to the photographer and owner of the content.

It was that change to the ToS that has caused this huge drop. Even its efforts to assuage users was too little too late. It should have known instinctively what the problems would be.

  • colinrose

    Could you cite your source? “It does also say that Instagram is continuing to acquire new users as well”

    Just wondering how much that offsets the impact

  • Nay

    “According to App traffic monitoring firm AppStats.”

  • David Wilson

    It’s hard to say that this is entirely the fault of the copyright grab, given that Instagram also disabled Twitter integration in December. Given what lack of a preview image can do for your visibilty, and given how many virtually identical apps are out there do still integrate with Twitter, many photobloggers will have switched for that reason too.

  • Pete Stean

    Given that there’s an uncorrected ‘anomaly’ in the graph, I’d also be quite circumspect about it;s provenance…

  • blipsman

    Is this just tracking app traffic? How might the launch of Instagram’s web profiles affected these numbers?

  • Mark

    Is the service terms change really responsible for this? It’s probably more to do with Twitter removing image embeds in Tweets.

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  • Dirk Singer

    However, at the same time Instagram’s problems have proven to be a huge opportunity for the relaunched Flickr and (Berlin based mobile photo network) EyeEm.

    Using the same AppStats data I estimate that they increased active users by over 600% and 200% respectively –

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  • Linda

    Hum, it’s a big lost! Wondering whether the figures are correct.

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  • Michal Smetana

    I think that this is far too straightforward claim. I don’t think that you can only blame the updated privacy policies. You have to consider the fact that Instagram disabled the support of previews for Twitter. This, in my opinion, has been far more important reason why Instagram lost so many monthly active users. What do you think?

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  • Federico Francioni

    I think you got it wrong. You write “active users seem to have fallen from 40 million to 17 million”
    But the graphs shows a percentage (%) of MAU/DAU users from 40% to 17%!
    So, it just says that frequent users are going down. In general terms, global users could even be doubled or anything.

    Let’s say that frequent users are going down, but your title is absolutely exagerated and not true in my opinion.

  • RethaVS

    I can’t imagine that these figures are correct, but be that as it may, I reckon most serious Instagram users who were upset with one or the other change did what I did. I renamed my user & changed my email address, then deleted my account… This got rid of all my images, followers, etc. but allowed me to recreated a new account with the same username. Why? So that I can still browse/like the feeds of my friends on there! :)

  • Peter Sigrist

    I think Instagram’s success came from its convenience – that is not a strong reason for using it. Within a couple of weeks, they dropped connectivity with Twitter, made a bone-headed attempt to change privacy settings in its favour and – for those serious about sharing photos – a new Flickr app appeared on iPhone that is more social and doesn’t turn pictures into low-res squares. Perhaps something of a perfect storm? Either way, I swapped to Flickr last month and jut deleted my Instagram account this morning.

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