Instagram has updated its brand guidelines to ban apps that feature either the word “Insta” or “Gram” in their names, and it has begun sending emails to existing apps requesting that they change those components “within a reasonable period.”
The emails specifically call out a few updates to the Instagram Brand Guidelines that restrict the use of things like logos and the full “Instagram” name. Now, they’re even more specific. An email sent to the Luxogram team, for instance, reads as follows (emphasis ours):
We appreciate your interest in developing products that help people share with Instagram. While we encourage developers to build great apps with Instagram, we cannot allow other applications to look like they might be official Instagram applications or endorsed or sponsored by us.
As we hope you can appreciate, protection of its well-known trademarks is very important to Instagram. For example, it has always been against our guidelines to use a name that sounds or looks like “Instagram” or copies the look and feel of our application. Similarly, as we have clarified in the new guidelines, use of “INSTA” and “GRAM” for an application that works with Instagram is harmful to the Instagram brand. It is important that you develop your own distinctive branding for your applications, and use Instagram’s trademarks only as specifically authorized under our policies.
The two new points that Instagram indicates that Luxogram is treading on are the fact that it uses “gram” in its name, and that (a highly customized variant of) the camera logo is being used. Instagram notes that a response to the email is expected within 48 hours and that a “reasonable period” will be provided to fix these items.
Though the Instagram name itself has always been protected by trademark and by the company’s API guidelines, the terms “Insta” and “Gram” have not. In fact, until the recent changes to the brand policies, use of those terms were actually encouraged by Instagram’s API documentation. You could use “Insta” or “Gram,” but not both together in the name of the app.
So the new rules exhibit a pulling back of sorts when it comes to the branding and naming of apps that connect to Instagram. While Instagram, and by extension Facebook, cannot stop apps that don’t use its API from using the terms, the continued use of that connection is now dependent upon apps not using either term in their names. We’ve reached out to Facebook for comment.
And well, that’s most of them. Statigram, Luxogram, Webstagram, Gramfeed, Instadrop, Instagallery and dozens more use either word. All of them will need to be re-branded entirely under the new rules. Statigram especially is a very useful tool that offers a host of statistics about your Instagram account that are not surfaced by Instagram itself.
And these aren’t tiny little sites. Luxogram was still serving 1 million people a month and Statigram also appears to do a brisk business judging from the prolific use of its hashtag on both Instagram and Twitter. Luxogram’s creator says that he’s unlikely to make all of the changes that Instagram wants, and will probably shut it down for good. Others could be in the same boat.
So, can you blame Facebook for protecting the valuable Instagram brand name? No, not really. But it does show that there has been a change in posture from the early days when connected apps helped the service to grow, and it welcomed the additional exposure. Now, it has its self-propelling growth curve and it’s reigning in anything it believes might be a point of confusion, driving people to the Instagram apps and web client.
Sounds like another company we know well doesn’t it?