Instagram’s journey from one dog photo to $100billion business in just 10 years

It all started with a stray dog.

Ten years ago this week, software designers Kevin Syst­rom and Mike Krieger launched a photo-sharing app which they hoped people would use to show off their holiday snaps.

Systrom tested it with a picture of a street dog begging for food next to a taco stall – the first ever picture on Instagram.

They had no idea they were unleashing a social media platform that would define a generation hungry for fame.

It got a million users in two months, 10 million in a year – and now has more than a billion globally, with 26 million of them in the UK.

Bought by Facebook in 2012 for $1billion, Instagram is now worth 100 times that – almost £80billion. Systrom, 36, has a fortune of around £1.5bn, while Krieger, 34, is worth some £77million.

Sparking a generation of selfie-taking celebrities who “do it for the Gram”, Insta also gave rise to bedroom “influencers” who hashtag and filter their way to vast personal fortunes.

 Surveys show one in five British youngsters now hope to carve out a living on the app.

But its reach goes beyond youth culture to politicians, sports stars, royalty and the Pope.

Here, we take an unfiltered look at the 10-year highs and lows of Instagram.

Instagram is not just the realm of celebrities – the platform has also given rise to “influencers”, who use endorsements and product-placement to market goods to their followers.

Thanks to their luxurious lifestyles, almost one in five British 11-to-16-year-olds say they want to be an influencer when they grow up.

Before becoming an Instagram sensation as “Mrs Hinch”, Sophie Hinchliffe was a hairdresser who enjoyed cleaning. Now Sophie, 30, shows people how to make their homes “instaglam”.

Her Hinch Army of 3.7 million followers has made the Essex mum worth around £1million.

Insiders say someone with 30,000 followers can make around £750 per post. With a million followers, that can soar to £10,000.

But influencing is not only for money. In 2016 the Pope got in on the action, treating his 7.1 million followers to photos of his foreign trips and meetings with religious figures.

In 2019, The Queen posted on Instagram for the first time on a visit to the Science Museum, with a snap of a letter to her great-greatgrandfather, Prince Albert, from computer pioneer Charles Babbage.

She wrote: “It seems fitting that I publish this Instagram post at the Science Museum, which has long championed technology, innovation and inspired the next generation.”

At 94, Sir David Attenborough is one of Instagram’s newest users, joining 10 days ago to “inspire change” and help save the planet.

He already has 4.9 million followers.

Appy animals

You don’t have to be human to get a huge following on Instagram.

Jiff Pom the Pomeranian, now aged 10, has 10.7 million followers and holds two Guinness world records for being the fastest dog on two legs.

He also starred in the video for Katy Perry’s song Dark Horse.

Tuna the Chihuahua-Dachshund mix, known for his distinct overbite and wrinkly skin, has 2.4 million followers and his own book.

And Grumpy Cat died last year yet still has 2.6 million fans – and merchandising worth around £77million.


With its wealth of users, the platform can also tap into people’s conscience to do good.

In April 2019, clothing brand Tentree vowed trees-for-likes on its first post. Its 15.5 million likes so far have resulted in 500,000 trees planted.

In a different sort of activism, many users joined in #BlackoutTuesday on June 2, a week after the killing in the US of George Floyd.

All on one day, 28 million people posted black squares on their Instagram feed to signal support for Black Lives Matter.

Most Liked

Within two moments of its arrival, some of the world’s biggest celebrities were sharing every moment of their lives with the world, including Kim KardashianBeyonceAriana GrandeJustin Bieber and Harry Styles.

But rather than a celebrity, the record for most liked photo is currently held by an egg.

The image, posted by Instagram account @world_record_egg in January 2019, has notched up 54.8 million likes. Its aim was to knock Kylie Jenner ’s first photo of daughter Stormi off the top spot. Kylie, 23, still has eight of the top 20 most liked posts ever.

Other big hitters include the Friends reunion selfie by Jennifer Aniston, 51, which has 16.2 million likes, and Kendall Jenner’s “heart” hairstyle – the most liked image of 2015. It hit around 51 likes per minute when it was first uploaded.