Instagram rolls out Web-based profiles

Photo-sharing network Instagram is giving up on its smartphone app exclusivity and rolling out Facebook-styled Web profiles for all its users over the next few days. The Facebook-owned social network says the new Instagram profiles are designed to make it easier for you to share your profile with others and find new users to follow. Previously, Instagram offered limited Web functionality, only letting you see publicly-shared photos online if you could find the photo's URL through third-party search engines and other means.

Profile breakdown

The main feature of your new Instagram Web profile is a Facebook-like cover photo area featuring seven of your recent photo uploads. Just like on Facebook, your profile photo is also placed in the lower left corner of the cover photo area. The new Instagram Web profiles also feature a short bio (if you added one), your complete Instagram photo archive organized by date, and your follower/following count.

When ready, your profile will be available at instagram.com/[YourUsername], similar to Twitter. Instagram says the new profiles will be rolling out to all users over the next week, so if you don't see your profile yet it should appear soon.

Instagram's Web functionality will be relatively basic at launch. You will be able to like and comment on photos from other users, follow people, and edit your profile. It appears you won't be getting an online news feed similar to what you see within the Instagram app, and Instagram won't be offering any type of search function to find other users. Instead, you'll have to either navigate to profiles based on username or wait for third-party Instagram search alternatives to fill the void.

You also won't be able to upload photos to Instagram from your desktop or a camera connected to your PC. Instagram said it chose not to do this because the service is currently focused on sharing photos taken on mobile devices. Instagram's Web roll out is literally all about viewing profiles for now, and not about bringing the full Instagram experience to your browser.

A publicly shared Instagram photo from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

In my tests, even though my profile was not yet activated, I was still able to login to the Web version, edit my profile, like and comment on photos, as well as follow other users. Liking or commenting on a photo is fairly straight forward: just click on a photo on another user's profile, and a pop-up window appears with the photo and a smartphone-shaped comment area on the right. Follow buttons appear below the profile photo of every user. It's not clear if you will be able to edit your cover photo area or if Instagram will always automatically populate the area based on your activity.

Privacy dilemma

Even though Instagram's move to the Web does not include a fully functioning social network, your profile will still be more public than it was when Instagram was largely a smartphone-only affair. If your Instagram account is set to public then anyone (including non-Instagram users) can see your Web profile page along with all of your publicly shared photos. If you've set your account to be private, then only the other Instagram users you've allowed to follow you will see your content, and only when they are logged in. Anyone concerned about privacy should consider whether they want their Instagram photos available to anyone capable of getting online.

(See Related Slideshow: Instagram Your Photos Without an iPhone)

Instagram Your Photos Without an iPhone

To see if your Instagram Web profile is ready, try navigating to instagram.com/[YourUsername] or signing in to your Instagram account here. To get a sense of what the new profiles will be like, Instagram is also recommending that you check out profiles from mycookingdiary, palomaparrot, and Nike.

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