Obviously, it took years and thousands of dollars to make Instagram. Our team receives regular requests about building an app like Instagram. Every time our team digs deeper, each such request has different intentions and goals often similar to Instagram. This analogy is due to the wide app functionality, as Instagram has expanded from a photo-sharing application to a social and business platform.

For this purpose, we have covered the key information about Instagram and explained how to create an alike photo-sharing app in the article: How to Make an App Like Instagram: Tech Stack, Features, Costs.

In this article, we describe current app functionality and present a real-life example of a photo-sharing project similar to Instagram in functionality. Thus, you will better understand how much would it cost to develop a social-networking app like Instagram.

The Complex System of Instagram

One of the reasons behind Instagram success is the continuous product improvement. These days, the service allows users to not only share photo and video content with other users but also offers wide business possibilities. You would likely agree that Instagram has become a powerful sales channel to attract new prospects and offer different products and services.

Simultaneously, Instagram constantly improves the user experience by maintaining simple, intuitive navigation for new users along with monochrome and laconic design. Generally, companies like MLSDev apply UI and UX design services and follow the latest tendencies in order to provide the best user experience.

Instagram App Design Changes
Instagram App Design Changes

Currently, Instagram is a free photo and video content sharing application one can download through the App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android). The platform is also represented with a web version for sharing and uploading content. The Instagram app does cost money if you would like to use it for advertising purposes. In general, the price is between $0.2 and $2 per click (CPC) in order to place an advertisement inside the app. For ad impressions, (CPM) the cost is around $5 per 1k showcases.

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Let’s now check out the Instagram functionality to understand how the system is built and what efforts it would take to create a similar product.

The Instagram App Functionality

First of all, it is worth paying attention to the fact that Instagram evolved from a simple photo-sharing app. As a reminder, its primary feature was adhering photos into a square. This is known to be the Instagram MVP, the key functionality which allowed Instagram to succeed in the app business.

This example is why it is a wise approach to define the core feature that will bring value in the first place. Building a smaller version of a product with the core functionality is a good approach to begin a project but to grow it you should also plan the release of its further versions with more features.

The key functionality of Instagram includes the following:

  • Authorization (via email, phone number, or Facebook)
  • Create and edit profile (including Business profile)
  • Messages
  • Image customization
  • Determination of geolocation
  • View user profiles and follow other users
  • Personalized feed
  • Search (by posts, usernames, tags, and places)
  • Mentions
  • Analytics
  • Settings

For a more demonstrative mode, the image below represents the Instagram app functionality.

Instagram Functionality and Development
Instagram Functionality and Development

Photo & Video Instagram App

As mentioned, Instagram’s journey began with the photos! All the content consists of posts which are shown in the personalized user feed based on preferences. Users are able to follow other users, pages, and hashtags. As well, Instagram has the functionality to edit these photos, apply a range of filters, and tag locations and friends in the photo.

The year 2017 was dedicated to Instagram stories, which set video content in the center of the service by allowing users to broadcast short videos. Despite the fact that they self-destruct after 24 hours, since December 2018, users can easily store their best broadcasts in the Stories Highlights section for an indefinite time. This is quite a complex feature for Instagram, with a separate feed on top of the main app screen.

Instagram has also become an innovator in mobile television. The platform also launched IGTV for vertical videos adapted for smartphones to compete with the well-known YouTube.

Among the other app functionalities is the ability to create and use personalized name tags to find and follow new users more easily, and search and follow hashtags. Instagram's algorithm empowers content of interest to you based on liking history and followings. With this data in hand, brands are now able to generate more valuable content tailored to their target audience.

Messaging Instagram App

One of the first great updates made by Instagram in 2013 was the messenger, Instagram Direct, which allows private photo-sharing and messaging to people you follow. This changed the emphasis from a mostly public social network with a broadcast structure toward some more private and precious moments shared only with a close group.

These days, users have the opportunity to send personalized messages and videos. As well, you are able to create group chats with up to 32 members in 2018. Next, you can find a detailed guide on how to make a video chat app.

Instagram as an E-commerce Platform & Business App

Shopping on Instagram allows brands to highlight products in Stories and Feed to attract new customers. Businesses are able to generate sales via Instagram by tagging their products in the pictures with descriptions, prices, and sales links.

In order to apply product labels, one needs to link items to the Facebook Business directory and set a catalog there. Then, it is possible to create publications and stories for sales and check statistics.

Furthermore, there are some rumors that Instagram plans to build a separate shopping platform, which may be called IG Shopping. This idea has a solid foundation, as more than 25 million businesses are represented on Instagram and 2 million are advertised. It is rather logical to start a separate e-commerce platform.

Supported Products for Instagram

Apps of Instagram
Apps of Instagram

Instagram also has a few sub-projects. All these are working with video and photo-processing applications namely:

  • Boomerang- creates unexpected and fun short videos that circle back and forth
  • Layout - makes collages from a set of photos by mixing and editing them
  • Hyperlapse - allows to stabilize videos to create time lapse shoots

How Much Does Instagram Cost to Create?

Clearly, it is highly implausible to attempt to clone Instagram exactly, especially without the necessary monetary resources, skilled developers, and effective management. It is worth mentioning that the price for a mobile app development varies due to these and more factors:

  • number of features
  • complexity of features
  • design specifics
  • number of platforms and operating system details
  • technology preferences
  • software development team capabilities & rates
  • project management, etc.

For additional details check the following article with all the specifics for project calculation: How Much Does It Cost To Make An App?

It is worth adding that, currently, the phrase “app like Instagram” can mean something different for each individual, since the platform contains wide functionality and the elements described earlier.

Aside from a vast amount of minor elements and functions, Instagram has an enormous architecture to store such a massive amount of data (photo & video content). Instagram is hosting 1 billion users monthly! Just imagine the level of server infrastructure required for processing a few million posts at once and supporting all these moving pieces.

This is why it is a difficult task to determine the actual cost and time to develop an app like Instagram. The range could even extend from $5,000-5,000,000 depending on what the initial intentions are, what is meant by an ‘Instagram-like app,’ and the other factors mentioned earlier. Instagram got its initial funding of $500,000 to build the first product version. The project received $57,500,000 in total and ten investors. You surely get the gist of how much it cost to create the Instagram app.

How Much Would it Cost to Create an App Like Instagram?

Our software engineering company has wide experience in building photo-sharing and social networking projects, as well as projects similar to Instagram in functionality. Even though some features may be similar, the app concepts have differed and were unique. This has allowed projects to find target users.

The project developed as an iOS application with the following functionality:

  • Logging and tracking user interest
  • Geotagging photos
  • Calendar of specific memories
  • Exploring NearMe prints
  • Social sharing
  • Following friends based on a specific interest
  • Discovering new places
  • Reviews and ratings
  • Rewards

Description of App Features Similar to Instagram

Let's now cover major element involved into social photo-sharing apps like Instagram in detail:

Feature Description Notes
Social authorization Users can login/register via a social network - One social network - Facebook, Twitter, or G+ (two or more networks influence the estimate)
- Transfer of account photo and full name included
Feed Users can see a feed with posts by one criterion/logic (basic) - Posts that users see in timeline are based on subscriptions that user is creating
- All entities that can create content for application provide user ability to subscribe to own content feed
- After aggregating all of the content from all subscriptions and adding some advertisement (if it is your business model), content is reordered according to some algorithm (in basic scenario, just from new to old) and sliced into pages

Post creation Users can create posts (basic) - For content creation, you need regular RESTful API endpoint that most modern frameworks provide.
The only thing that should be pointed out - every front-end platform can have some specific requirements and version issues
Post likes Users can like and unlike posts - Likes counters should be in some way cached using some instruments, NoSQL databases for example
Social notifications Users can see notifications about basic events - New likes, comments on your posts, new friends
- Automatic refresh of displayed data on the fly should be implemented additionally
- Push notifications in background are not included (should be implemented additionally) posts, new friends
- Automatic refresh of displayed data on the fly should be implemented additionally
- Push notifications in background are not included (should be implemented additionally)

User profile Users can manage a profile (basic) - Personal information (text fields, birthday, gender), one photo
Search Users can search for one type of entity by one criterion - Each subsequent entity influences the estimate
Chat Users can chat (basic) - List of chats -Send a text message or image, list of messages (with time and a user avatar)
- Push notifications for new messages and new chats
Push notification module Integration of a module for push notifications (hidden for users) - Unsubscribe from push notifications if a user is logged out
- Specific push notification implementation influences the estimate
Analytics Basic integration with analytics (hidden for users) - One Analytics tool (except Fabric) Flurry or Google Analytics/ Firebase or MixPanel
- Basic SDK configuration (minimum analytics - OS versions, devices, etc.)
- Screen tracking for Android -Development, staging, production

CMS: Admin authorization Admins can register, log in, and log out - Log in
- Log out
CMS: Admin management Admins can manage other admins - CRUD (create, read, update, delete) of administrators
- Full name, email
CMS: User management Admins can manage users - Basic sorting, filtering, and searching (by name, by email, by ID) included
CMS: Reported user management Admins can manage reported users - One entity (a photo, user, or post), each subsequent entity adds % to the estimate
- Can be removed
- Sorting by amount of claims

It is highly important to create a plan for the project in advance. Our business analysis services are conducted to create functional specifications and WBS (work breakdown structure) to organize all the work to be done on the project before the design and development stages.

For additional details, you may check our ultimate guide: How to Create a Social Media App.

Architecture & Technology Stack in Instagram-Like App

It is not only important to consider app functionality, but also plan the architecture of the project. The following diagram represents a project architecture plan similar to that of an Instagram.

Instagram Backend
Instagram Backend

Further, clarification regarding how such a system operates is provided. As you can observe, there is a client-side part (front-end) of the Instagram-like project seen by the user, as well as a server-side (back-end).

Mobile Frontend Instagram-Like App Development

Our team highly recommends developing mobile applications natively, which means building a separate app for iOS operating systems. This will help to easily scale the project further and make necessary adjustments to the functionality pretty easily. Besides, the app performs better and is less bug-prone when developed this way.

For the methods to build mobile applications and supporting arguments for native app building, you may check out the article: Native App Development vs. Hybrid and Web App Building

The following technologies are used for the front-end development:

  • Swift programming language - for iOS application
  • HTML/CSS/AngularJS - for admin panel

If you are interested in how to make an app like Instagram for Android, the costs and timeline are pretty similar. The difference can make 3rd parties integrations and design specifics for the Android platform.

Backend Development for Instagram-Like App

This development involves the backend part of incorporated components users do not see. The project`s backend controls product security, structure, and content management.

As well, another important element is a RESTful API (application programming interface). This is a set of rules and mechanisms by which one application or project component interacts with another. The app backend and frontend are interconnected with the help of RESTful API, which should also be created to send and receive information from a server.

For additional details about API, please check out the article: A Beginner’s Tutorial for Understanding RESTful API

There are also cloud-based services that provide a simple and efficient way to scale hardware productivity and adjust it to the ever growing needs of an application. Speaking of cloud based storage, the best options are Amazon RDS (database storage) and Amazon S3. For hosting, Amazon EC2 is preferred with at least one core of CPU, one GB RAM, and eight GB HDD. The approximate server cost for apps is less than $50/month for the initial configuration.

Our team used the following technologies to develop the project's back-end:

  • Ruby programming language (Ruby-on-Rails framework)
  • PostgreSQL Database
  • Web servers: Nginx
  • Cloud server platforms: Amazon Web Services (AWS, EC2, S3, etc.)

The integrations used in the project included:

  • Google Maps API
  • Facebook SDK
  • Instagram API

Our Business Analyst, along with a Software Architect, can help you define functionality for social networking project similar to Instagram. Get in touch and book a one-hour call to discuss your photo-sharing idea and define your unique app functionality.

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Other Resources to Develop an App Like Instagram

To come back to the app design, a large amount of work should be devoted to the development of the interface for the project. In any application with a social networking functionality, the navigation should be intuitive and crystal clear for new users.

Also, any custom app development incorporates Project Management and Quality Assurance. Both are highly recommended during any project development process in order to minimize system bugs and manage all the deadlines.

To Sum Things Up

Instagram-like App Development Hours
Instagram-like App Development Hours

Let's outline the total app cost by setting an hourly rate of $40 as the cost (based on the average Ukrainian market rate). With these known values, the total cost to develop a project (on one platform) similar in functionality to Instagram would be around $300,000.

To Conclude: How to Make an App Like Instagram?

It seems like the market for social media apps is oversaturated with a range of photo-sharing products similar to Instagram in functionality: Snapchat, Flickr, Tumblr, etc. On the other hand, there is a tendency for users to seek diversity in their social media usage depending on their specific needs.

In accordance with the global analysis conducted by CB Insights, most startup projects fail because they do not solve the market’s problems or the market for them is too small. Thus, it does not make sense to clone an Instagram app; rather, seek to develop some unique app concept.

The steps to make an app like Instagram are as follows:

  • Analyze the market and develop your strategy
  • Come up with your unique and outstanding app concept
  • Get support from investors
  • Hire a development team to build an app for you
  • Work out your PR and marketing steps and launch the promotional campaign several months prior to the product release
  • Add unique features to your app to get it into the spotlight
  • Perform thorough app testing to make sure its quality is flawless and that it is user-friendly
  • Don’t forget to keep up with your competitors
  • Enjoy your success!

Our team can help you define an original and valuable app idea and the right audience to have a high probability of success, whether it is a social project or product in another domain like food delivery app development.

Want to build your own Instagram-like app?

Reach out to us and we will be glad to assist and grow your social networking project together.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

⏳ How long does it take to make a social media app?
The timeline to build a social media app with a basic feature-set is from 3 to 5 months. If you want to create a social product of more complex functionality and custom design, the process takes from 6 to 9 months and the cost starts from $100,000. In general, the more features, components, design elements are used, the longer it takes to implement the social app.
🚀 What is the key Instagram functionality?
The main features of the Instagram app consist of social authorization and sing up via email, phone number ability to create and edit profile, in-app messages, image customization, geolocation, view user profiles and follow other users, personalized feed, complex search.
🛍️ Instagram as an e-Commerce platform
Shopping on Instagram allows brands to highlight products in Stories and Feed to attract new customers. Businesses are able to generate sales via Instagram by tagging their products in the pictures with descriptions, prices, and sales links.
💵 What factors affect the price of mobile app development?
The price to create a mobile app varies due to many factors. This includes the number and complexity of features, specifics and uniqueness of UX/UI design, preferences in tech stacks as well as selected software development vendor with team’s capabilities, provided services, and hourly rates.