Yesterday we reported that Instagram lacked data portability, knocking the app for the absence of an equivalent to Facebook’s Download Your Information too. Now an Instagram spokesperson tells me “We are building a new data portability tool. You’ll soon be able to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Instagram, including your photos, videos and messages.”
This tool could make it much easier for users to leave Instagram and go to a competing image social network. And as long as it launches before May 25th, it will help Instagram to comply with upcoming European GDPR privacy law that requires data portability.
Instagram has historically made it very difficult to export your data. You can’t drag, or tap and hold on images to save them. And you can’t download images you’ve already posted. That’s despite Instagram now being almost 8 years old and having over 800 million users. For comparison, Facebook launched its Download Your Information tool in 2010, just six years after launch.
We’re awaiting more info on whether you’ll only be able to download your photos, videos, and messages; or if you’ll also be able to export your following and follower lists, Likes, comments, Stories, and the captions you share with posts. It’s also unclear whether photos and videos will export in the full fidelity that they’re uploaded or displayed in, or whether they’ll be compressed. Instagram told me “we’ll share more details very soon when we actually launch the tool. But at a high level it allows you to download and export what you have shared on Instagram” so we’ll have to wait for more clarity.
If Instagram does offer uncompressed downloads of the same image quality as it shows on its app, the Download Your Information tool could make unofficial third-party export apps like InstaPort obsolete. That would be a win for users since these apps are sometimes run by unscrupulous developers who could misuse your content or the Instagram login credentials you need to use them.
Portability could facilitate the rise of legitimate competitors to Instagram, or at least let users back up their content on an image storage app or their own computer. But still, it’s Instagram’s social graph and the data it’s gathered about your interests that help it tune its algorithm to show you the most relevant posts. This personalization moat can leave rivals with similar features unable to provide a similar level of service.
If Instagram wanted to truly level the playing field, it would let you export your social graph in a privacy-safe format that would let users find and follow those same people on a different app. But the announcement of this data portability tool is a much-needed first step to unlocking Instagram’s content vault.