Instagram Poised to Blow Up With Public Real-Time API

A few weeks ago, Instagram released an API in private beta as the first step to open the service to outside developers. But the company is looking to spark many more Instagram-linked apps and services with a public real-time API that will help developers tap into the power of the fast-growing photo sharing network.

Instagram founder and CEO Kevin Systrom said the new API, which is now open to all, will create a raft of new apps and services that will bring more real-time sharing of photos to the web and to existing and new apps. Developers who tap into the API will be able to get photos pushed out instantly based on information they subscribe to including their users’ names, tags, individual locations and larger geographies. When Instagram receives an uploaded photo with matching information, it posts an update to the developer’s server. You can see a cool demo Instagram made with the API.

By further enabling developers to leverage Instagram, the API should help accelerate even more sharing over Instagram and increase the number of users. The company, which launched in October, is up to 2 million registered users who share about 300,000 pictures a day. Systrom said he expects usage and interaction to grow immensely as people have more ways to view photos and respond.

“What this means is you’ll have more opportunity to see what your friends are sharing and not miss a moment,” Systrom said to me in an interview this week.

Systrom said Foodspotting,, and Dropbox are some of the companies already taking advantage of the API. Foodspotting and Thefancy are able to take any Instagram photos shot by their users and instantly upload them to the user’s page. Dropbox has used the API to give users the ability to instantly back-up their pictures to a Dropbox account. Other apps like Flipboard and Momento are using the API to display photos on mobile devices, while a new site called provides a view of some of the best Instagram photos.

Systrom said while Instagram is building out its web presence and is looking at Android (s goog)  for its next mobile app after iOS (s aapl), it can’t match the creativity and output of all the developers looking to hook into Instagram. Already, 2,000 developers have applied to participate with the private beta API.  Opening the API allows the company to reach other platforms like BlackBerry (s rimm) and Windows Phone 7 (s msft) quickly and prompt a lot of apps and services the company never dreamed of. It will also help Instagram keep pace with rivals like PicPlz, which also released its API earlier this month, though Systrom said it’s not about competition.

“It’s just good hygiene for any startup to have an API,” Systrom said. “If we had all the time to do things we would, but now people can do it themselves.”

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