Debunking once and for all the theory that Instagram has been hemorrhaging members since it controversially updated its terms of service in January, the photo-sharing app announced that it hit 100 million active users on Tuesday.
The 2-and-a-half-year-old company, bought by Facebook for a then eye-popping $1 billion in April 2012, announced the milestone in a blog post.
"It’s easy to see this as an accomplishment for a company, but I think the truth is that it’s an accomplishment for our community," co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom wrote. "Now, more than ever, people are capturing the world in real-time using Instagram --sharing images from the farthest corners of the globe."
Hitting the 100 million figure is just as arbitrary as hitting 999,999,999 users or 100,000,001 users. In fact, it looks like it happened twice: in September, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a crowd at a TechCrunch conference that Instagram had "100 million registered users" -- meaning that 100 million people signed up for the app. Now in February, it has 100 active users -- that is, 100 million people who not only signed up for the app but who have also used it in the past month. (A Facebook spokesperson confirmed this.)
But the announcement does reveal two things. First, earlier reports of an Instagram exodus were greatly exaggerated. After Systrom announced in December that the company would update its terms of service, many Instagrammers were outraged and declared they would ditch the app. Many interpreted the difficult-to-understand document to mean that Instagram users would no longer own their photos and that their images could be sold to third parties -- both accusations Instagram insisted were false.
Yet in about six weeks' time in 2013, Instagram grew its active userbase from 90 million to 100 millon, according to an announcement made at the end of January and one made on Tuesday. Taking these figures at face value, that's 11.1 percent growth in 40 days. That's a tremendous rate, flying in the face of the New York Post and other media outlets that insisted people were fleeing the app, based on outside data.
What's also suddenly clear is that Instagram is growing faster than Facebook itself. In October, the world's largest social network numbered its active members at 1 billion. In January, that figure was 1.06 billion, or only 6 percent growth over four months.
For a company interested in being the world's de-facto photo album, Facebook's Instagram buy is looking like a smarter and smarter move.