Instagram: Free Hipster iPhone Photos, Plus a Community

Want to apply cool filters to your iPhone (s AAPL) photos without paying for an app like Hipstamatic? Try out Instagram, which is launching today. Om already reported on how the app comes from the makers of Burbn, a demo HTML5 mobile location app that was neat enough to win $500,000 from Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

Instagram isn’t just about playing with your photos to make them look saturated and old-fashioned; it also allows you to share them on the service and with other sites (Facebook, Flickr (s yhoo), Twitter), tag them with the location where they were taken and people pictured, and discuss them with other users (similar to the way Burbn works). The app is snappy and responsive. Om says he bets that there’s an open opportunity to build a photo-sharing service that’s “designed from the ground up from the perspective of a mobile user” with “a more immersive, two-way service” as compared to the desktop. I’ll add that one thing Instagram has going for it is a pretty awesome name.

When I compared Instagram to a sort of hipster/artsy Vimeo for photos in an email to founder Kevin Systrom, he replied, “We want to give people for free what they’re currently paying for, and build an awesome community underneath. Whoever joins this community and however it develops will be interesting to watch.”

Systrom also explained how Instagram fits into his company’s larger plans (which include an Android (s goog) app, but not right away):

It’s one starting point to get to where we want to go which is to revolutionize the way people communicate and share out in the real world. Starting with one feature and being really good at it heightens our chances of getting to that longer term mission.

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