Instagram’s New “Explore” Brings The Future Of Photo Discovery Into Focus

“Explore: photos taken nearby”. Instagram may be looking to follow in Foursquare’s footsteps and give you more to do than just post and browse the main feed with today’s iOS app update that merges Popular with search to create its own Explore tab. It also added new Facebook sharing controls, visual and speed improvements, better commenting, autocomplete for search, and revamped profiles.

For now you can only search for users and hashtags, but I envision Explore blossoming to let you home in on photos from specific times or locations. For example, you could select to see all the pics taken from 9am to 4pm yesterday near Market Street in San Francisco to reveal a rainbow of photos from Gay Pride.

Instagram’s greatest feat is making us see the beauty of the world around us. Now it’s hard to spot a gorgeous sunset or a bustling intersection without reaching for Instagram to give friends a window in.

The next way it could open our eyes might be letting us pick which of our friends’ windows to peer through. Explore could one day let you see just nearby photos, shots from a specific zip code or city, ones with a particular filter, or pics posted in certain time frames. It could be fun to see all the shots taken right outside your apartment, from your hometown, all the old-timey “1977” filtered pics, or everything shot around midnight.

Hashtags were a great first step, but not everyone adds them to their photos. Explore could make all Instagrams discoverable, and transform users from visitors to a worldwide photo gallery into its curators.

Here’s the full list of What’s New in Instagram 2.5 for iOS

  •  Revamped profile tab
  • Search for users and tags in the Explore tab
  • Improvements to commenting
  • User search autocompletes based on people you follow
  • Visual improvements
  • Speed optimizations
  • Optionally share likes to Facebook (enable in your Profile > Sharing Settings > Facebook)