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The expanding influence of Instagram

By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor

Social media giant Instagram is expanding their brand by creating a completely new app called Boomerang. Despite their popularity, Instagram is constantly trying to improve and keep themselves fresh, sometimes to their detriment—have you seen their new layout? It’s awful. However, Boomerang is shaping up to be a cute little side project that could have the people over at Instagram patting themselves on the back.

It’s not a complicated process: take what people love about your original idea, and just tweak it a bit so that it seems new, but not too new. In the case of Boomerang, they took Instagram’s latest video function, as well as their original photo functions, and combined them. The result is a new app devoted to one second videos made up of five photos taken in succession. What you get is a silent gif that’s aesthetically disjointed. It’s cute and fun, and slightly nostalgic—the mini-movies look like silent films from the ’20s.

You might be asking yourself, why make this an entirely new app when you could just add it to the original Instagram? That’s a good question, and unfortunately it’s one I do not have an answer to. My only explanation is that Instagram wanted to have the app require a third party for publication. Boomerang itself doesn’t have a feed, probably because doing so would put the app in direct competition with its predecessor. Instead, the mini-movies are saved to your phone and you can share them through Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

Now, if your social media prowess pre-dates Instagram, this idea might sound familiar. It’s very similar to the iOS (and as of this week, Android) app Phhhoto, a startup that was expected to be a direct competitor of Instagram. Eventually, Phhhoto was overtaken by Instagram in popularity—for good reason. It has this nasty stalker function that allowed you to GPS people. Now, apparently Instagram believes enough time has passed for the public to forget that they’re totally ripping off someone else. But what’s the problem? Google does it all the time! Speaking of Google, ever heard of the animation feature in Google Photos? Yeah, Boomerang is completely ripping them off too.

To be fair, this process of successful social media companies absorbing or appropriating the ideas of failed ones is done all of the time—and unless the failed company has a patent on their technology, there’s pretty much nothing anyone can do about it.

For me, I’ll probably download Boomerang, play with it for a week, and then get bored and delete it. Cute little side projects only get you so far when they’re a bit gimmicky.