Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Third-Party Instagram Apps and Websites Cease to Work (macrumors.com)
94 points by techdetect on June 4, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 76 comments

I created a classifieds platform around Instagram posts and been operating since around April 2015. When filling out their form and creating a screencast begging for access back, I get denied stating that their API is not for "one off projects."

YouTube shows that they haven't even watched the screencast they asked me to make, just flat out denied without spending any time on my API request.

It's their product and they can do whatever they want with it, but the annoying thing is that they had released an API for people to play with, people built features around it, and now the features do not work. This kind of disrespectful dismissal make me really reluctant to spend time integrating other APIs in future things I make.

I will never integrate with a 3rd party API unless I have some sort of contract which prevents them from yanking the rug out from under me. Sadly, the sort of developer-hostile TOS that Instagram uses is all too common these days: "Instagram may change, suspend, or discontinue the availability of any Instagram APIs at any time. In addition, Instagram may impose limits on certain features and services or restrict your access to parts or all of the Instagram APIs or the Instagram website without notice or liability." (https://www.instagram.com/about/legal/terms/api/)

Then you're never going to be able to integrate with any APIs. Even the best free APIs have clauses that the provider isn't liable for any damages caused to you due to their changing their mind about the business they want to be in.

In this case, though, Instagram gave people over six months to transition to the new process and workflow, and for us, our approval took less than a week. IMHO, this is a good example of the right way to transition applications over.

They should have done a soft shutdown to alert developers. Half of the developers didn't even know about the upcoming change because Instagram emails just end up in junk.

They've had a notice at the top of https://www.instagram.com/developer/ since late last year.

>> Any app created before Nov 17, 2015 will continue to function until June 1, 2016. On that date, the app will automatically be moved to Sandbox Mode if it wasn't approved through the review process

Let's be real, after a project is finished, no developer is going to randomly keep watching the docs page of one of the probably many APIs they used for it.

But they also were emailing - I got like five emails for my personal projects warning me that things were changing. Plus it was reported in the tech press:



I'm really not sure what more people expect instagram to do.

We never got any emails from Instagram.

and you don't fall under any of their 3 use cases.. which the closest for you would be -"to help individuals share their own content with 3rd party applications"

My issue is that they only will give "basic" permission to 3rd party apps? (which it seems like it under their valid use examples). My app DOES help individuals share there own Instagram photo content (like Tinder profile connects with users Instagram photos) but I also need public_content and follower_list.. and not sure if they will just deny with "one off project!"...

-Also in Sandbox.. only the Admin (main instagram user/that invites the others) the permissions seems to work. I can search public_content and find my sandbox users but sandbox user can't search and find the main admin user... is this right??

This appears to be just in line with the typical lifecycle of a social network. There was a recent comment which outlined it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11829562 I'd say Instagram is entering stage 3 (locked content and curated feed).

"Coincidentally" they released a new set of business tools (http://blog.business.instagram.com/post/145212269021/new-bus...) on the same day. I have no insider info but I think this is mostly about capturing the analytics market that was previously served by 3rd parties.

There were also a lot of spam apps (buy likes/followers) on the App Store/Play Store and this move removes most of them. They're also avoiding a Tweetdeck situation when a 3rd party client gets too big to ignore. Good for them, bad for users.

Disclosure: I made an Instagram client for iPad (http://retroapp.net). Funny that since some apps have moved to private API and now can do more than public API (no upload, no Direct access).

I'm also the author of a Instagram client (http://photodesk-app.com) and I went through the trouble of applying for their new API and got all permissions granted by specifically catering to businesses / brands. However, it is quite frustrating to see other apps (like flume) just flat use the private API. I wonder why I went through all this trouble in the first place. If Instagram at least did something about these private API clients, it would be worth applying for the official one, but as it stands currently, I'm doing worse.

Except that I saw your comment, looked at your app, looked at flume, bought your basic app then immediately upgraded to the pro version. Your app does exactly what I need with no bullshit. Cheers!

That's awesome! Thanks for buying pro! :)

This is very common by Facebook. Many of their APIs are private and oly given and only provided to some of their previledged partners (e.g. shop section).

What is the Instagram shop section?

Wait what? You got approved for all permissions? I'm gonna drop you an email :).

So just in time they're shipping global curated timelines, you can't make an app that sorts posts back in chronological timeline? What a coincidence!

If you get to see all the posts you want, in the order you want, you'll leave the site much sooner. Got to keep the rats in the skinner box, shower them with stale content and reward them with the (very) occasional new thing.

Facebook also shows you time sensitive things from yesterday ("come hang out with me tonight!"), to increase your fear of missing out.

Instagram have left open the option that in the future the curated timeline may also adjust the content of your feed so even if you could fix the ordering at a temporal level, there would still be omissions.

> As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.[0]

Also the "promoted post" feature which they have in their new business tools[1] looks like down the track it will incorporate a feature where businesses can pay for their regular Instagram photos to appear in more feeds. Which means even more that the `/posts` endpoint which you hit as a user is controlled by Instagram

[0]: http://blog.instagram.com/post/141107034797/160315-news [1]: http://blog.business.instagram.com/post/145212269021/new-bus...

> optimizing the order [for advertisers]

Has anyone ever said, "ya know... Something's not right about the order of my Instagram feed. It seems to be all chronological!"

Happened to me recently at SoundCloud. Bonus: they deleted all of my unrelated music, followers and likes without any warning or method of appeal.

We asked for this.

Yep, as long as we develop extensions and tools for platforms with ToS like that, we are to be blamed. It reminds me of most developers' blissful ignorance of CLAs and merrily pushing patches to projects where they hand over copyright ownership to the likes of Google, Ubuntu, Microsoft, etc., while probably not being aware that their code can be relicensed into anything without their future consent.

I wanted to build a small side project utilizing Instagram, and when I read their API ToS, I was completely demotivated. Everything having to be about brands drilled in the fact that I, the user, am the product, and my interest in the platform even as a consumer dropped significantly.

I now post very rarely and almost never browse. Occasionally I'll look up a particular hashtag relating to some car/motorcycle I like, but that's basically it.

The curated feed shift (has that happened yet?) was also very bad news for me.

The "curated" feed is rolled out gradually. My older account already have it while my newer account does not (I still check both currently). Really ruins the experience ("Wait did this happen yesterday? Oh no actually 3 days ago" etc).

I deleted my account the first time they changed their ToS, still pre-Facebook, when they added to the ToS that any photos you uploaded to them could be used in any way they wanted (or something like that) unless you deleted from them.

So I went ahead, and deleted my account (that was new, but already had about 100 photos or something).

They later "unchanged" the ToS, but I won't make the same mistake twice ;)

I wonder if there's going to be any noise over this outside the developer community. There was when Twitter pulled this nonsense, but their third party clients had massive followings. I, personally, have never heard of a third party Instagram client.

This has happened with so many services over the years, that one would think developers would be more enthusiastic about educating the end user with libre software. I do that aggressively with people I know. Too much to ask?

> Too much to ask?

It's just that for services like that the wealth is the data, they don't want 3rd parties to profit from their precious data. Instagram (free) API was shitty anyway, so I bet not a lot of developers was using it. Twitter API and data is far more useful.

Reminiscent of one of Twitter's early mistakes

Not really sure the demographic of Instagram really cares about anything other than the Instagram app.

Probably more of the power users (brands and celebrities) that uses 3rd party analytics. Instagram is clearly trying to move people to their upcoming Analytics feature.

Yeah completely agree. This makes sense for them to lock it down and offer business incentive. Good on them honestly.

There are no desktop apps for Instagram. Instagram forbids posting photos in any way other than their mobile app. For me this is a big problem.

It's not a problem to the majority use case of using Instagram. Desktop use is declining.

a lot of photographers (amateurs and pro) use instagram, they generally shoot on DSLR and then have to transfer to their laptops and then to their phone in order to upload to Instagram. I know this is not the majority of the users but its still a significant number. There are hacky apps showing up on both Windows and OSX that will do the trick but they are hacky nevertheless.

Instagram's api has always been locked down pretty tightly, not having near the use of 3rd party Twitter apps. This may not have that big of an impact.

Yup, you can't even publish via API on Instagram. On the other hand, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest allows it.

Going to miss my RSS feeds.

Won't be long before I can't access Instagram altogether without an account, much like Facebook.

Seriously, what stops people from simply using the API keys and routes from the official app?

Instagram can't revoke the keys because that 'd kill the app for those who don't upgrade their apps all the time, the only thing they could do is to pressure the app stores to take apps down - but I wonder on what legal grounds?

Non-US persons and companies are not bound by this; also, the app developer does not bypass access controls himself...

My only usecase for Instagram "app" was to embed client's feed in their own webpage. It doesn't look good right now, I don't think this usecase is allowed, it's not in the approval list.

I just can't understand this, business X wants to embed their own damned feed on their own page, how should they do it now?

I've hacked together a way to use unofficial API https://instagram.com/query but it's a bit iffy to use this.

Well, that sucks. I set up a small website with contact info, wish lists, etc. for my wife and I. It also included both of our Instagram feeds. As of today, hers is disabled and mine works :/

I had to remove the Instagram integration from my site because of this.

I always thought that they would wait with this until they finally made an own iPad app, but that seems to be not they case.

Maybe it's because their mobile website is finally quite good, but looking at the Facebook Web Messenger story[1] I'm surprised they go that route.


I'm wondering if one day we will have laws that will prevent companies from building silos that cut off independent developers.

Without having a raft of data in front of me, you'd have to assume that many Large Development Shops had an Instagram API token and are being impacted by this change in addition to independent developers. The irony is that Instagram themselves felt this burn from a 3rd party provider back in the day when Twitter yanked their API access[0]

[0]: http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/26/no-api-for-you-twitter-shut...

Certainly, existing laws are ill suited to the current tech ecosystem.

Because Facebook and the like are free, they evade existing competition laws. But it's not unreasonable to ask, as a society, that these huge companies take on some special responsibilities. That might well include something about openness.

The closing of the Instagram API made me reflect on the whole situation: http://jimmytidey.co.uk/blog/for-facebook-there-is-no-law/

Why. Why does a company not have the right to decide whom to give access?

Because it is something that we as a society do not desire. The data in those silos is our data, not their data (unless you want to live by the letter of the law rather than use common sense). It saddens me that a large part of our culture is locked behind the doors of youtube, instagram, facebook and twitter.

What makes it ours? And if one should follow common sense rather than the law, why is your proposed solution a law?

> What makes it ours?

The fact that we created that data.

Here is an analogy. If I buy a piece of paper and it contains an EULA that says that any works written on that paper become property of the manufacturer of the paper, then would that be legally binding? If so, then do we want to live in a world where paper manufacturers have control over our intellectual property?

Note that paper is a commodity product, but the same holds for online video services, and messaging services. The ones we are using today have no or little competitive edge over other services (other than network effect), they were just lucky enough that we chose to use them.

That's a completely non-related analogy. A better one is if you were to go to a university, become a student, use their facilities, and do research there, then the uni rightfully owns a percentage of any IP you come up with there. It's in their ToS when you signed up and that's what you have chosen to stick to. It's no different if you use FB or Instagram; you've agreed to their ToS that data you've pushed through their service is their's to do what they want with. If you're not happy with that, move along and use something else- perhaps print your photos onto your hypothetical paper and share them using that.

Trying to answer policy questions from a framework of individual rights is only one way of dealing with this question.

Alternatively we can ask: are we as a society better off if we allow companies to demand the rights to user generated content, or would we be better off if we forced them to open up access?

I like that Instagram has an API but they make me feel like I'm begging them for access. I've finished my app so long ago but I've put off applying for production access because I'm afraid of how my screencast will be received.

Always wondering why these big companies don't just get people to pay to use their APIs. Why not leverage the popularity they have into becoming a content provider for other spin off products?

Because there's value in owning your own tail. That your tail would be ten times longer if you didn't own it is of no value to shareholders.

Banning useful third-party services and doing almost nothing agains spammers… I receive 5-10 follows/likes from spam accounts every day.

"Don't store or cache Instagram login credentials."

So, a app needs to ask for a login and password each time it access Instagram?

No, an app is explicitly forbidden from ever asking for login/password. Twitter/Facebook do the same thing.

Instead, you use OAuth to fetch an access token. This is far better for the user - they can revoke your app's access without changing passwords, and without all their other apps losing their connections.

Well that's just good practice. Apps would normally ask you to log in once, receive an API token from the server, and continue to use that for the rest of the tokens lifetime. When the token expires, it'll prompt you again for your login.

Sure but consider that every endpoint in the API needs a login. That means that you can no longer construct a simple feed widget of a hashtag for your website.

Oh, I didn't see that part. That's a lot more inconvenient.

We don't do that with web browsers these days. I get the feeling other apps on my PC (particularly a photo or video editor that had a "Share" function for Instagram) it would get tiresome.

Sure we do. See also: bearer tokens.

Look at password management in browsers, that's what I meant. No one bans browsers from accessing their site.

There's no need to store the credentials -- you can just ask the Apple keychain to store them instead.

No… it could store a session token.

often there is some kind of token you can snag which will last for a decent amount of time. I can't speak to the Instagram API though.

It lasts until you revoke the app or change your password.

ok, that makes more sense - thanks

Anyone know how long the application review process is to gain access to the new API is?

I applied yesterday when my app broke and was approved today. So less than 24 hours.

oh wow. thanks I'll apply today. I've been putting it off thinking it's going to be a huge thing.

Reminds me of zenefits vs ADP

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact