If you’ve ever found peering over a friend’s shoulder as they browse their Instagram more interesting than swiping through your own, or you simply want to know what today’s greatest minds waste their time viewing on the Facebook-owned photo sharing service (e.g. hmm, Musk likes NASA and nudes?), then a new app called “Being” should be your next download.
The idea with Being is to offer users a way to view Instagram from another person’s eyes. That is, you can view Instagram as it would be seen by a friend, or by any other user on the service whether that’s a pop star, celebrity, techie, politician, tastemaker, or even a brand. (The only exception would be if a user’s account is private).
I’ll admit that I didn’t quite grasp the appeal of such a utility until I actually tried it for myself.
It honestly didn’t seem like something I’d use more than once. But after a few launches, I’m no longer sure that’s the case.
For starters, it helps that Being is a well-designed, even elegant mobile application with an uncomplicated setup process and engaging overall user experience. However, it wasn’t until I surfaced after some 20 minutes of perusing other people’s feeds that I understood its potential.
Not only is Being a way to voyeuristically peer into the lives of others – friends or strangers – by scrolling through a visual feed of what appeals to them most, it’s also a clever way to discover new Instagram users to follow to spice up your own feed.
While using Being, I found myself following a number of accounts after tapping to view their photos, then using the app’s handy “follow” button next to the account holder’s name. Over the course of a couple of sessions, I added a fashion brand’s feed, a feed of delicious food photos, a couple of tech-related accounts, and an artist’s feed, for example.
And though Being touts its ability to stalk celebs and public figures, I actually found it more interesting to scroll Instagram as people I knew personally – friends, dates, family, etc.
The app also has a community feel to it as it lets you track which accounts are trending across its network, and it lets you dig into various communities to see the most popular accounts from people like fashion bloggers or YouTube stars, for instance.
Mashaal, Being’s sole founder, says that his company is only funded by friends and family, but is looking to raise. Longer-term, he believes there’s potential to monetize Being in a number of ways. (It would probably be better for him to grow this app organically best he can for now, however, as it’s definitely in the group of apps that could end up being – ha! – a novelty.)
“There are so many interesting ideas given the unique nature of the app and how it unlocks the power of who someone follows as opposed to what they post,” he explains. “Currently, we are most focused on building the user base and making the app experience as great as possible.”
Unfortunately for Being, the app also falls into a gray area when it comes to Instagram API usage. Instagram said late last year that it would kill off third-party apps that allow users to browse its service by shutting down its feed API. The company didn’t want to worry about how its feature set would translate to the long tail of little-used applications – but that could be a myopic decision. After all, Twitter killed off its own third-party developer community years ago, and now its user growth is stagnant and its company is troubled.
A handful of good, if niche, client apps can make for a better platform. Hopefully Instagram will understand this and not put Being in its crosshairs.
For what’s it’s worth, Being is not a feed-reading client, which could offer it protection. The app doesn’t steal followers or duplicate current Instagram functionality, but rather adds to the overall Instagram experience.
Note that, as we went to publish, the app ran into troubles – it’s not loading recommendations and users’ feeds, but is rather serving blank content. You can still follow users but you can’t view their followers’ posts. But Being tells us it isn’t an API issue – instead, Amazon Web Services is having performance issues in the region the app is hosted. The company is migrating Being to a new location and will return to full functionality in an hour.
For now, then, it’s still worth the download. Being is free on iTunes.
Update: 2/19/16; 5 PM ET – Being’s troubles actually require an app update to fix. The new version is pending Apple’s approval in the App Store, we’re told. Update, 2/22/16: The app has been patched and is now working.