Stories of an iconoclast

The founder of the photo network Instagram wants to revolutionize the information society – and is putting himself in the limelight.

At first glance, Kevin Systrom is an outsider.

The 32-year-old from Silicon Valley, co-founder and head of Instagram, wears a shirt and suit. The knitted tie is accurately tied, the beard trimmed, the hair short and elegant. All in all, it’s a 1.96-large, slim mix of investment banker and hipster. One that doesn’t seem to fit into the hoodie world of the Internet elite.

At second glance, Kevin Systrom is an insider, a poster child of Silicon Valley.

He, the son of a manager and a veteran of the New Economy, programmed computer games as a student in a boarding school on the East Coast. Then he went west and studied in the heart of the Valley: at Stanford University. He learned how to set up high-tech companies, and as an intern he worked with the later heads of Twitter. After graduating, he went to Google for two years and shortly after started a social network called Burbn. As it should be, this first company flopped. In 2010, Systrom tried it a second time at the age of 27 – with Instagram, short for instant message.

Today, more than 400 million users upload their images to Instagram, the world’s leading photo sharing platform. In 2012, Kevin Systrom went for a walk with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. At the end of the small hike, the big one bought the small one for a billion dollars. He took over Systrom and his partner as bosses along with

Instagram captures more than 80 million moments in photos every day

At the end of 2015, on a grey winter day, Systrom sits in a bright event room in London. He has just spoken to his colleagues in the UK, now he is talking about something that could transform the world as we know it. He calls this revolution an “iconographic shift”. He could become one of its leaders.

For more than 500 years, the written word was the most important medium of Enlightenment, the means of discourse. Since the advent of the Internet and smartphones, words have slowly been replaced by images. Instead of pure text messages, photos and short videos are increasingly being sent, as they are now also available on Instagram. They can be distributed more easily and cheaply than ever before, always and almost everywhere.

Even now, Systrom says, Instagram captures 80 million moments a day. “That we can capture these moments in high resolution and store them forever will be more important to human history than the invention of the written language. Systrom believes that people’s memories to buy instagram story views will no longer be written down, but depicted. “We have always been more visual than linguistic.”

If he is right, the foundations of coexistence and democracy will change – as with any change in the media. Our communication would probably become more direct and emotional. Political lies would be exposed more quickly, but their long-term plans would also be disturbed by more storms of excitement.

The functionality of Instagram

Instagram has not become so successful by the mere functionality of the photo upload, but especially by the possible use of filters. Images are automatically stored in square format and can then be edited with different filters to give the image a “retro look”. An edited image is then reminiscent, for example, of a Polaroid or a shot with a Holga camera. In addition, each image can be provided with a geotag so that the location of the shot is displayed next to the image.

Users depicted on a photo can also be marked. In 2013, the video function was added: Since then, Instagram has also been used to distribute short videos that can also be filtered. In the meantime, the simple use of filters has been extended: filters can now be used in different strengths and further image processing functions have been added. For example, the tonality of an image can be determined individually. As already mentioned, photos of other users can be likened and commented, similar to Twitter, they can be provided with hash tags and can be found via these hash tags. Users who want control over who gets to see their pictures can set their profile to “private”. Each follower must first be approved by the user.

Systrom himself as celebrity

Systrom is driving change forward and is itself at the centre of it. This was already the case when Instagram was founded, when the donors granted the first capital less to the idea than to the man. Later, famous friends uploaded their pictures to Instagram.

Today Systrom himself is a celebrity. Before the meeting in London, he was in Aspen, an American luxury ski resort, “at a conference with a few global leaders,” he says. He continued with fashion shows in Paris. Last year he was seen at a training session of FC Bayern, recorded Selfies with Karl Lagerfeld and some super models, showed himself at a dinner party that London’s cooking miracle Jamie Oliver threw for him. Football, fashion, Hollywood – all this takes place on Instagram. And Systrom is there.