Cost to Make an App Like Instagram

Costs and timeline for building an app like Instagram

Thanks to the simple concept of sharing and editing photos, Instagram has made a real buzz in the online world. Now, the project has gained billions of dollars and 2 billion monthly users, many of which are building businesses on their Instagram accounts. In this regard, many entrepreneurs would like to repeat the success of Instagram and develop a similar solution. But what does it take to create an app? In this article, we will tell you how to create a replacement for Instagram and how much it can cost.

How Instagram became successful

In 2009, Kevin Systrom created a prototype of Burbn, an application which was inspired by his love for whiskey and bourbons — its key features were photo-sharing and checking in. Thanks to the prototype, the founder raised $500,000 in seed funding. Later Systrom teamed up with Mike Krieger, and they decided to go further and create a photo sharing application and combine it with photo editing functions. Such solutions existed before but only separately. This has become Instagram’s unique selling proposition.

In October 2010, founders published the app in the App Store, and two months after entering the market, it gained more than a million active users. Two years later, Facebook acquired Instagram for more than $1 billion.

In general, Instagram has become a successful startup thanks to three factors:

  • Unique idea: At that time, the combination of photo sharing and photo editing features in one app was a novelty. Plus, initially, the app focused on users who take photos with phone cameras, specifically with iPhone 4, which was released around the time.
  • MVP approach: The founders did not invest all their money in creating a full-fledged platform. They started with developing key features and launching the iOS version and tested it for two years. Only after they achieved success, they moved forward to developing Android and web versions and adding new features.
  • Simplicity: Systrom and Krieger wanted the app to be minimalistic and require as few actions as possible from the user. To this day, Instagram has kept its new features and design changes simple, centering around media upload and social networking.

Now let’s see what’s inside Instagram to figure out what you need to build a platform like Instagram.

Instagram features 2022

Instagram has made few changes to the app’s design, trying to keep its simple and intuitive interface. The app has many new features but all of them are focused on sharing visual content and communicating.

Media upload

Posts. Users can post both photos and videos in their feeds. Images should have a width of at least 1080 pixels and an aspect ratio between 1.91:1 and 4:5. As for the videos, they can be from 3 seconds to 10 minutes long and should be a minimum of 30 FPS and 720 pixels.

Stories. The stories are available only for 24 hours, but users can save them as highlights to be displayed in the bio. Users can also add music, polls, questions, and various stickers to their stories to make them more interactive. One of the newest features is automatically generated captions which users can apply to their stories. At this point, captions are only available in English-speaking countries.

How to create an app like Instagram: study the features
Here’s how Instagram captions work on videos

Reels. Reels is an attempt by Instagram to publish short videos on its platform similar to those that helped TikTok become famous. Users can also add music and AR effects and edit videos to their liking.

Live. Another way to make content on Instagram is to do live broadcasts to connect with followers in real-time. There are also different settings that users can add to their live streams, like turning off commenting or applying AR effects.

Photo editing. In addition to numerous filters and simple tools for photo editing, Instagram provides masks with augmented reality effects. Users can create such masks themselves, and this feature is often used by brands to increase visibility, launch a trend, and attract customers.

Take inspiration from Instagram filters to create a similar app
This is how Adidas, Lego and H$M used Instagram masks for marketing purposes

Social networking

Social features include direct messaging, liking, sharing, following, etc. Instagram provides users with a lot of privacy — it’s possible to hide posts and stories from particular users, make accounts private or public, send disappearing messages or private stories and videos to friends. Users can also make audio and video calls and send audio messages.

Commerce

Shopping tags allow users to sell their products on Instagram. For example, if you have a clothing brand, you can post a photo of a model wearing your brand’s dress and tag the product on the picture. Users can go directly to your store and purchase the dress. It’s also possible to complete the payment process without leaving the app. Instagram currently offers checkout only for US-based companies that have an Instagram store.

Technical implementation

Initially, Instagram was launched only for iOS and designed specifically for iPhone 4. Then they created an Android app and started using React Native. The creators chose React Native because it allowed faster feature delivery due to code sharing and higher iteration speed.

At Ronas IT, we often use React Native for cross-platform development. One of our recent projects is Lainappi, an app for taking or giving items for rent. Using React Native allowed us to implement all the needed functionality and launch the app in a short time.

Current technologies used in Instagram are:

  • Python/Django – Instagram backend part.
  • React Native — iOS and Android apps.
  • JavaScript and React.js — web app frontend part.
  • Amazon S3, Amazon, EBS, Amazon EC2 — cloud computing services.
  • PostgreSQL — database.

In fact, if you want to build an app like Instagram for Android and iOS, you don’t need to copy the app’s tech stack or development journey. The choice of technologies depends on your business goals and the complexity of your project. Check out our Stories and articles to find out more.

Instagram: Similar apps to inspire from

TikTok

Get inspired by TikTok to create an app like Instagram

Although users can’t just post photos on TikTok as on Instagram, they can share short videos and make live broadcasts. In addition, TikTok provides users with many ways to edit these videos. Another platform’s advantage is a good algorithm that selects videos for the users’ feed according to their tastes. TikTok has 500 million active users worldwide per month and became the most downloaded social media app back in 2018.

Snapchat

Get inspired by Snapchat to build an app like Instagram

Snapchat is quite similar to Instagram in terms of functionality — users can also share photos, videos, and stories in the application and apply various filters to them. The app became very popular after implementing stories that disappear after 24 hours. Later, Instagram borrowed this feature which slowed Snapchat’s growth.

Yummi

Get inspired by Yummi to make an app like Instagram

It is a social network for foodies that allows them to share their favorite dishes, put geotags on photos and discuss foods and venues. Users can mark which dish they ate at a restaurant, keep a food log and track it.

Retrica

Get inspired by Retrica to create an Instargam-like app

Retrica is a social media platform for posting photos and videos. Unlike Instagram, the application supports GIFs and allows users to create their own GIFs from a group of images or from a piece of video. Retrica also provides many different filters and photo editing tools.

How to develop a social media app like Instagram

  1. Unique value proposition. If you want to create a new app like Instagram, you need to offer users something valuable. Instagram has become successful thanks to a conceptually new idea, so simply copying the application will not help you achieve the same success. Determine what is the main value of your idea and how it differs from what already exists on the market. It helps you find your audience and avoid direct competition.
  2. Market research. Conducting a market research can help you test the viability of your idea. Identify your target audience and try to communicate with them directly — conduct surveys, focus groups, and product tests. Feedback helps you understand whether the idea is worth investing in. You might decide to change something in the future product or even focus on a different audience.
  3. Сompetitor analysis. Learn about the main players in the market and their products, as well as what killer features they have, what marketing strategies they use, and what their target audiences are. Study user reviews to understand what they like and dislike. This way you can borrow good ideas from competitors and find places where you can do better and meet the needs of users.
  4. Finding developers. There are different ways to find a development company. You can use platforms like Clutch and GoodFirms to search for company profiles and read verified customer reviews. Another way to find developers is to search for them on LinkedIn, where you can look at the team’s past projects, and request a meeting. Many companies also have their own websites where you can find their portfolios and case studies. Then determine your requirements for the project — cost and terms expectations, the scale of the project, the composition of the team. It helps you choose the most suitable company.

We describe the further steps relying on processes in Ronas IT

  1. Project estimation. Once you share your requirements with us, our business analysts will start with turning these requirements into user stories — descriptions of features that will help to estimate how long to develop an app.
  2. UI/UX design. Based on users’ stories, our UI/UX designers think through the app’s logic — create wireframes to show the user journey and connections between screens. After that, they choose colors, fonts, and icons and create animations to make the design visually appealing.
  3. Development. When the design is finished, we choose the most suitable technologies to implement the needed features according to your business needs. Our QA engineers work in parallel with developers and test the app after every iteration.
  4. Release. We release the app on App Store and Google Play according to the stores’ guidelines. Our team won’t abandon you after the launch — we will support your project, add new features, and fix bugs.

What is the average cost to develop an app like Instagram?

The app creation cost depends on the number and complexity of features you need to implement and on the chosen technologies. Native development allows us to create very fast and responsive apps specifically for iOS or Android but requires two teams and takes more time, that’s why it costs more as well. If you decide to go native, you can start with one operating system to cut costs.

Cross-platform development allows us to build one app that will work on two operating systems, although it won’t be able to use some of the built-in features of mobile devices. Such development requires only one team, takes less time, and costs less since we need to create only one app.

Native development is great for creating apps that need flawless performance — for example, banking apps. Cross-platform development can suit you better if you wish to validate an idea, enter the market quickly, and reach the audiences of both platforms. Instagram started with native development but switched to React Native for cross-platform development, and it works great.

Key features to make an Instagram-like app

Building an app with all the features that Instagram has doesn’t make sense, moreover, it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. To realize how long it takes to develop an app like that, keep in mind that Instagram started its way 12 years ago. We suggest starting with an MVP instead. Below we compiled a list of vital features for an app like Instagram.

  • Authorization allows users to sign in using a phone number or email or via an existing social media account.
  • Profile, as users should be able to create a profile where they can put information about themselves, create an avatar, etc.
  • Feed shows users posts they might be interested in.
  • Search, as users should be able to find anything they want, so don’t forget about filters and tags.
  • Messaging allows users to send and receive messages in real time, send media files and get push notifications.
  • Media uploading and editing, as users should be able to post photos and videos and apply different effects on them.
  • Unique feature, as the app should have something that differs it from competitors and attract users.

This is our estimate based on these key features.

How much would it cost to develop an Instagram alternative

In general, the cost of creating an Instagram alternative app with Ronas IT ranges between $40,000–$70,000 for an MVP. The costs and timelines are approximate so if you wish to get a precise quote, feel free to contact us by clicking the link below or checking the Services Ronas IT page.

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