I enjoy making 'stuff' and eating tacos.

Instagram API = A Pinups Issue

Jun 8th, 2016

For most people, Instagram’s recently updated restrictions to accessing their API (application programming interface) will not only have gone completely unnoticed, but they probably don’t really care. Here at Front Page, however, this change has marked the end of an era. Or has it?

Towards the end of last year, Instagram announced that it would be rolling out a series of major updates to strengthen its platform with more features to keep users visiting and staying longer. It warned third-party apps and websites with Instagram-related features, that as of June 1st they would no longer be able to access the Instagram API unless their app fell into a specific set of “use-cases” Instagram themselves had specified (and even then the app would still require a full review before access would be granted). So this time last week, popular apps like Flipboard and IFTTT suddenly stopped working – or at least the Instagram reliant parts of the apps did – but more importantly, our very own beloved Pinups game has been put to rest.

Pinups is an internal game started by the team a couple of years ago, where Front Pagers take photos under a chosen theme and post them on Instagram. At the end of each week, the photos bearing the unique hashtag are voted on and the outright winner awarded with a bottle of Prosecco. Simple concept, a nice wee creative exercise and a great way to grab some free swally.

In the beginning, this competition involved printing said photos out, hanging them on a wall, and inviting Front Pagers to physically put a mark against the entries they felt most deserved a win. Realising this setup could quickly become a chore nobody wants – and not a very scalable one for a growing business – one of our developers decided to create a website that would not only pull all the Pinup images through from Instagram, but also allow everyone to vote on their favourites using their own Instagram login.

This Friday we would all be logging into the Pinups site to vote on our “minimal” snaps and crown the next Prosecco drinker. Instead, we may need to print them out one last time before putting the whole game to bed. After two years of photo fun it seems a real pity to have to end it like this. Framed versions of some of the photos greet each person who walks through the front door of the building, as they hang in our lobby; at the company’s 25th birthday party, Pinups were suspended from a hundred helium balloons; even in the room I work in we have no less than 36 of them displayed in one glorious photogrid.

But do we really need Instagram to play this (without printing it out, of course)? No.

This is why we’ve decided to build a brand new Pinups site – one completely disconnected from Instagram – that we have full control over and so will never find ourselves in this position again. We intend on evolving the game too, to introduce more automation with reminders and theme selection. We want to develop a points system and present leaderboards; we’ll give everyone profile pages with achievements and stats – the possibilities are endless.

Between this lockdown of their API, the recent rebrand they rolled out and their current toying with a new algorithm (meaning your feed no longer displays photos in chronological order, but rather in a random order based on what they think you’d be most interested in seeing), it’s clear Instagram has a plan, and they are executing these steps towards it. As exciting as all this is – and we will watch with eager eyes – we’re not going to let them get in the way of our fun!

Pinups will rise again. Oh yes. It will rise again.

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