Last night we cruelly teased about a potential way for Windows Phone 8 users to post to Instagram right from their devices. To be honest, we did that because it was just too late (too dark) to shoot video and yes, it was a good warm-up.
The good news is no, it is most definitely not a (late) April’s Fools’ joke. It’s 100% legitimate and yes, it will be submitted to the Windows Phone Store very soon.
Read past the break for our video walkthrough and images to serve as a teaser...
Who’s behind Instagraph?
Venetasoft, the same company behind such popular apps as Turbo Camera, Security Toolkit, Cam Broadcaster, Motion Cam, Intrusion Alarm and more security-focused programs for Windows Phone. These guys evidently know a thing or two about network IT, which is a good thing.
How does it work?
So the million dollar question everyone is asking is how did these developers do it? We can’t go into specifics because according to them it’s basically a “secret”. What we can say is that no, Instagram has not given them API access and no, they have not incorporated those APIs in an unofficial method either.
Currently, Instagram only gives API access for browsing files but not for posting.
Instead what seems to be going on here (from our analysis and hints from the developer) is an Azure server-relay method whereby your post goes through their servers to Instagram. It’s a hack to be sure and far from ideal, but unlike the unofficial Pandora app situation on Windows Phone, this method can’t be suddenly “turned off” by Instagram by changing the API.
What about account creation?
So the other big issue with Instagram is you can’t create user accounts on the web. You can manage them, but not create them. The only way to create an Instagram account is as a first time user is via their official Android or iOS app. That sets up another hurdle for unofficial Instagram app creators.
Instagraph, the first version, does not solve this problem. But the next version does.
Venetasoft have reportedly solved the ability to create accounts through the app itself (once again, most likely relying on a middle-man server) but they said it needs some more testing before being deployed. That means, at least initially, only those with pre-existing accounts can use Instagraph, but it shouldn’t be too long before anyone can use it.
What the app doesn’t do
Interestingly, Instagraph is not a full-featured Instagram client. The app is only meant to post images to your Instagram account but as of now, is not used for browsing photos. Likewise, if you want to comment of favorite one of your own photos, it will open up Internet Explorer to do so.
As far as we can tell, if you want to browse photos (or the people you follow) you will need one of the numerous Windows Phone apps e.g. Metrogram to fulfill that task.
It does work itself nicely into the OS though because the developers have managed to get access to the highly visible “Edit” option when viewing a photo natively. Currently, only the official Windows Phone photo editor and Nokia’s Creative Studio reside in that spot, meaning Instagraph will have great ease of access. (Currently though it is not a Lens).
Will it pass Windows Phone Store certification?
We can’t of course give a definite on that since the process itself could reveal legitimate issues that need to be resolved by Venetasoft, but yes, the developers to expect it to pass the certification. In other words, this is not meant to be a proof-of-concept or side project, but a legitimate commercial offering that has required a significant investment in time and money.
It appears to us that the developers behind Instagraph are working with or at least in contact with Microsoft about this project, meaning it should not be a surprise to anyone at this point. We imagine that if Microsoft were prepared to block this due to its mechanics, Venetasoft would be aware of that and would not be pushing forward.
Still, there are no guarantees.
So how is it?
While it’s not an official Instagram client, third-party developers have some advantages over their big brothers in the industry, including speed and the need to be creative.
The experience so far with the app is quite solid and feels seamless—you take a photo (or edit an existing one) using the familiar Aviary photo editor and just hit “submit”. From there it gets queued to Venetasoft’s secure Azure servers and gets posted (the app does not need to remain open during this process either).
It’s a bit of a kludge but certainly feels more native and built in than the BlackBerry BB10 method and let’s face it, it gets the job done.
We’ll have more in the coming days on Instagraph, including app submissions, availability and any further developments.