The story of Instagram's original name will make you take a sip

Eray Eliaçik
Aug 26, 2023
Updated • Aug 24, 2023

Picture this: the vibrant world of Instagram, with its cascading images of sunsets, culinary delights, and the latest fashion trends. But rewind the clock before influencers and filters, and you'll discover a hidden tale that predates the platform's iconic name.

Join us on an exploration into the past as we unravel the captivating journey of a platform's birth, its whiskey-infused beginnings, and the innovative twists that led to its global reign. So, step into the time capsule and uncover the fascinating evolution that turned an idea into an online revolution.

What was Instagram's original name?

The stories behind social media titans' names often carry intriguing narratives. Instagram, the platform that has become synonymous with captivating visuals and viral trends, had an original identity that might surprise you. In the early days before the age of filters, likes, and influencers, Instagram bore the name 'Burbn,' and its journey from this peculiar moniker to its iconic present-day name is a tale worth exploring.

The genesis of 'Burbn' was intertwined with the unique passions of its creator, Kevin Systrom. Drawing inspiration from his fondness for Kentucky whiskeys, Systrom conceived an iPhone app with location-based features reminiscent of Foursquare. However, 'Burbn' was an enigmatic amalgamation of functionalities that often left users perplexed. The intricacies of the app's design outweighed its potential benefits, and it seemed to lack a clear direction. Yet, Systrom's determination was unwavering.

Shifting from complexity to simplicity

Systrom's perseverance led to a pivotal realization. While the app's check-in features remained relatively dormant, its photo-sharing capabilities ignited a spark of interest among users. This discovery became the cornerstone of a remarkable evolution. During this phase, Mike Krieger, a fellow programmer, joined forces with Systrom, resulting in a dynamic partnership fueled by data-driven decisions.

As Systrom and Krieger delved deeper into user behaviors and needs, they recognized the true potential lay in the act of sharing photos. This revelation prompted them to shed extraneous features and laser-focus on refining the photo-sharing experience. Simplicity emerged as the guiding principle, paving the way for a strategic pivot that would reshape the app's trajectory.

With a refined vision in mind, Systrom and Krieger identified a market gap that paved the way for their unique proposition. While existing apps offered either artistic filters or social networking capabilities, there was room for a seamless blend of both. This insight led to photo-sharing fusion with user-friendly features, setting the stage for what would become Instagram's core identity.

From Burbn to Instagram

Interestingly, the journey from 'Burbn' to 'Instagram' wasn't linear. An interim prototype named 'Scotch' marked a transitional phase in the platform's evolution, underscoring the iterative nature of innovation, development, and naming.

After months of meticulous fine-tuning, a monumental moment arrived on October 12, 2010. Systrom and Krieger proudly introduced their creation to the world, christening it 'Instagram.' This transition wasn't merely a name change but a fundamental shift in focus and purpose. Systrom succinctly captured this evolution, stating that growth often arises from "false starts," emphasizing the necessity of adapting and evolving.

Beyond words: The Instagram Logo

The visual identity of Instagram also underwent a transformation. The initial logo, designed by Systrom, depicted a captured moment akin to a Polaroid camera snapshot. Accompanied by the modest "Instagram" text in a delicate font, the logo stood out for its unique elements. The vibrant rainbow stripe that adorned the logo's length and its rounded square shape lent it an unconventional yet distinctive charm.

(Image credit)

A lesson in adaptation and simplicity

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology and creative entrepreneurship, Instagram's metamorphosis from 'Burbn' to a global photo-sharing powerhouse serves as a poignant lesson.

It underscores the significance of adaptation, user-centric design, and the art of simplification in achieving enduring success. This narrative reminds us that even the most influential platforms have humble beginnings, and sometimes, a dash of unconventional inspiration can set the course for an unexpected journey to worldwide prominence.


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