Goodbye Insta Apps. Instagram Puts the Hammer Down.

Statigram, screen, Instagram

Goodbye InstaPlace. Goodbye Statigram. The apps and services may survive, but will need a new name at the very least. Instagram has had a change of mind and recently updated its brand guidelines. It has notified developers of many third-party Instagram support apps that they can no longer use “Insta” or “Gram” in the names if they wish to continue using the APIs and linking to the mammoth social network.

Under the new recently updated Instagram brand guidelines, developers may not:

  • Use “Instagram,” “IG”, “Insta” or “Gram” in their app name
  • Use the Camera Logos, or the Instagram name or logo, in their app icon
  • Use the Instagram stylized font in their product or marketing materials

TechCrunch has an excellent post on this story here.

Emails have already been sent to developers requesting changes to the offending apps “within a reasonable period.” TechCrunch reposted part of this notice sent to Luxogram:

“We appreciate your interest in developing products that help people share with Instagram. While we encourage developers to build great apps with Instagram, we cannot allow other applications to look like they might be official Instagram applications or endorsed or sponsored by us.

“As we hope you can appreciate, protection of its well-known trademarks is very important to Instagram. For example, it has always been against our guidelines to use a name that sounds or looks like “Instagram” or copies the look and feel of our application. Similarly, as we have clarified in the new guidelines, use of “INSTA” and “GRAM” for an application that works with Instagram is harmful to the Instagram brand. It is important that you develop your own distinctive branding for your applications, and use Instagram’s trademarks only as specifically authorized under our policies.”

The Instagram name and other intellectual property have always been protected by trademark, while the more generic phrases “Insta” and “Gram” have not. In fact, at one point, their use was actually encouraged by Instagram. Check it out. Down at the bottom: “While you cannot use the word “Instagram” or “IG” in your product’s name, it’s ok to use one (but not both) of the following: “Insta” or “gram”.”

Instagram has made these changes in an effort to protect their brand and their trademarks. Trademark law is tricky and not always predictable. I’m not an attorney, but encourage any readers who are to chime in down below in the comments. If this were ever challenged in court, it would be interesting to see which precedents were raised. For instance, Kodak used the trademarked phrase “Instamatic” for years. In fact, when Instagram was first released, my first thoughts were “Oh, wow, another app that’s based on an old plastic camera that isn’t a Holga.” 21st century brand confusion.

In the end, this may be less about trademark law and more about Facebook Instagram telling developers “If you want to play in our sandbox, these are now the rules.” The deep pockets of Instagram make an effective deterrent for the many smaller developers that this effects the most. Granted, many of the apps that this effects are pretty crappy and I won’t miss them anyway. If I were Instagram, I wouldn’t want any potential brand confusion or perception of endorsement with any of those. I suppose legally, in lieu of a licensing arrangement, there needs to be a scorched earth approach.

Useful Instagram add-on sites like Statigram, Webstagram, Instagrafic, InstaDesk and many others will have to rebrand or shut down. InstaPlace, InstaComenter, InstaSync, Instaplus — many of the Instagram front-end apps will need to rebrand, make other changes, or simply remove the very handy ability to share directly to Instagram from the app.

No word on whether these notifications have gone out to developers of physical products that base their business on Instagram. Rebranding an app is a pain, but fairly inexpensive. Rebranding a physical product involves a lot more expense for new packaging, new dies for manufacturing — essentially many of the physical start-up costs and unless the product is phenomenally successful and selling off the shelves (most aren’t), simply not worth the time and cost.

According to the new guidelines, developers will be able to use the convention “[Your App Name] for Instagram” to indicate that the product is integrated with Instagram. Insta apps won’t need to disappear. We’ll just need a bigger screen for the longer app names.

Back in the day when Instagram was iOS only and lean and hungry and only had a few million users, Insta apps — even crappy ones — were welcome and the free word of mouth helped to grow the network. Now that Instagram is a social phenomenon, it seems to be flexing its muscle to start reigning in and controlling the community that helped build it in the first place.



About Marty Yawnick 1826 Articles
Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.
  • rugfoot

    They’re turning on the very communities that made Instagram. This is real corporate ingratitude and greed.

  • gericentonze

    A lot of these apps make the IG experience better – I think they should lighten up!

    • Kristin VP of Instamour

      Thank you 🙂 and we help them by keeping the users engaged on their platforms as well.

  • Helder

    “If this were ever challenged in court, it would be interesting to see which precedents were raised. For instance, Kodak used the trademarked phrase ‘Instamatic’ for years.”

    I am not a lawyer, but I think the above comment is based on a false assumption about Instragram’s request. They are not claiming to own the “Insta” brand or demanding that every manufacturer rename their “Insta-Anything” product. (If such were the case, many manufacturers of unrelated products could easily cite your “Instamatic” example in their legal defense.) Instead, they are saying that you cannot use a variation of “Instagram” AND market your product with the Instagram brand. You must choose one or the other — either rename the product or remove all references to Instagram.

  • ashcroft54

    This doesn’t surprise me at all.

  • edicaves

    I can care less about the millions of apps that use insta or gram, expect for one really and that is INSTAclassic! It’s the only app I know that used “insta” in it’s name way before Instagram came along. Marty, what do you asses what will be of INSTAclassic? I know you use to be in touch with miss kiwi, have you reached out to her to see if she was on the list of email advising about the name change? Really hope this classic iPhoneography app sticks around.

    • Helder

      Do you mean ClassicINSTA?

      • edicaves


    • Helder

      Getting responses from the affected developers would be a good followup article. Are they planning to protest the change? Or will they rename their products? Will they try to coordinate a common naming scheme for their products (for example, “ClassicMATIC” as a play on “Instamatic” since you can’t use “Insta”) or will they each go their own way?

      • Kristin VP of Instamour

        We don’t give up.. real startups never give up they try to finish anything they start to the end as a team .

  • Kristin VP of Instamour

    Hi Kristin here from Instamour we are part of this and if we change our name we will loose thoudands of $$ in branding and marketing and press .They just changed the laws and we have been already operating peacefully. This really isn’t fair that real startups that are struggling have to deal with the legal consequence of these bullies I havnt even gotten a pay check in 2 years and I’m a single mom to a young boy.We have nothing and we promote the use of their app everyday and pay for facebook adds and campaigns do we get a refund???? We have 100k users and finished our new version for apple this couldn’t be a worse time to do this to us we need to focus on the growth of our company not starting all over or Shutting down . They are going to burry us small guys if we don’t stick together some are out of business already !! We are not changing our name and that’s final any problem call me and we will talk like adults not through a email giving us 10 days to give up our company name lol we are real people real lives real sacrifice has been given for our companies we are not robots that do whatever billionaires tell us to do have some respect ill be waiting by the phone!