“No Filter” chronicles the rise of Instagram
ON A BEACHSIDE walk in Mexico in 2010, Kevin Systrom’s girlfriend explained the problem with his new photo-sharing app, then called “Codename”. Professionals might want the world to see their pictures, but her own phone snaps weren’t good enough. Back at the hotel, Mr Systrom coded a quick solution: a filter that gave even the most basic shot a hipster finish. He applied it to a snap of a dog by a taco stand, and uploaded it, making it the first image posted to what became Instagram.
A billion users later, the look in that filtered photo is ubiquitous. Square proportions, high contrast and darkened edges have instantly smartened up profile pictures, holiday albums and advertising campaigns around the world. In “No Filter” Sarah Frier, a technology correspondent at Bloomberg, uses close access to Instagram insiders to give a lively and revealing account of how the world came to see itself through Mr Systrom’s lens.
有了10亿用户后，使用这个滤镜的照片已经无处不在。裁剪成正方形、提高对比度、加上暗角，转眼间让世界各地的个人头像、假日相册和广告活动焕然一新。在《无滤镜》（No Filter）一书中，彭博的科技记者莎拉·弗莱尔（Sarah Frier）通过和Instagram内部人士的近距离接触，生动地揭示了整个世界如何开始通过斯特罗姆的滤镜看自己。
The tale of nerds who struck gold offers glimpses of Silicon Valley’s weirdness. In the early days Mr Systrom and his co-founder, Mike Krieger, patched errors with their laptops on camping trips and took a call from Justin Bieber when he forgot his password. Later, haggling over Instagram’s sale to Facebook, a crunch negotiation took place over a barbecue at Mark Zuckerberg’s mansion, with the Facebook founder grilling meat he boasted of shooting himself, though he was unsure if it was venison or boar. Mr Systrom went to the Vatican to persuade the ultimate influencer to sign up—and @franciscus obliged.
The sale, for a then-unthinkable $1bn, went sour. At Facebook “every single activity…stemmed from a religious obsession with growth,” writes Ms Frier, who is even-handed but seems closer to Instagram’s founders than Facebook’s high command. As its new owner steered Instagram towards taking ads and making money, some early employees, who had wanted to build “a community centred around the appreciation of art and creativity…instead felt that they had built a mall”. Mr Systrom, a perfectionist who initially oversaw every ad carried on Instagram, personally editing one to make the French fries look crispier, was seen by Facebookers as a precious snob.
As Instagram grew bigger and cooler, Facebook began to act “like the big sister that wants to dress you up for the party but does not want you to be prettier than she is”, complains one Instagram executive. Mr Zuckerberg limited how many people Instagram could hire. He even got cross that its new video app, IGTV, had a logo that looked a bit like that of Facebook Messenger. In 2018, after six years of this, Mr Systrom and Mr Krieger quit.
Instagram的一位高管抱怨说，随着Instagram越来越大、越来越酷，Facebook开始表现得“像个姐姐，想把你打扮好了去派对，但又不想让你比她更漂亮” 。扎克伯格限制了Instagram的员工人数。他甚至因为它的新视频应用IGTV的logo有点像Facebook Messenger而生气。就这么过了六年之后，2018年斯特罗姆和克里格双双辞职。
Within this business story are several subplots. One is how Instagram blurred the lines between the personal and the promotional. Snoop Dogg, a rapper, made what may have been the first paid Instagram post in January 2011, when he uploaded a picture of himself “Bossin up wit dat Blast”, a new drink. At least before covid-19 struck, Kim Kardashian could make $1m from a single post to her 157m followers; over 200m users had 50,000 followers or more, enough to make a living as “human billboards”. America’s Federal Trade Commission has said influencers should declare when they are being paid. They often don’t.
Another subplot is how an app that people use to document their life turned into one that determines how they live it. At first this was a virtue. In the early days Instagram began encouraging wholesome outings to scenic spots for users to photograph. But it has become a problem. Some photogenic places, like Norway’s Trolltunga cliff, have been overrun. Worse, the ability to edit photos to perfection has spread insecurity. “I don’t know what real skin looks like any more,” complains Chrissy Teigen, an Instagram star.
另一条支线是人们用来记录生活的应用如何变成了一个决定他们怎么生活的应用。一开始这是件好事。在早期，Instagram鼓励人们去风景优美的地方开展有益健康的户外活动，并拍照留念。但现在这已成了一个问题。一些适合拍美照的景点，比如挪威的恶魔之舌悬崖（Trolltunga cliff），已经人满为患。更糟的是，照片能够被美化到完美无瑕疵这一点让不安全感蔓延。“我都不知道真正的皮肤是什么样子了。”Instagram上的红人克丽丝·泰根（Chrissy Teigen）抱怨说。
All this brought in $20bn for Instagram in 2019, or a quarter of Facebook’s revenue. But perhaps encouragingly, some in the company have come to see perfectionism as a risk to Instagram’s business. Young people have embraced Snapchat and, more recently, TikTok, as networks where they can go unfiltered. There they can post even imperfect shots: of their ordinary selves, their ordinary lives, even an ordinary dog by a taco stand. ■