Whether you develop for Instagram’s Graph API or you use apps built on it, Instagram’s latest API changes bring some great new features for businesses. These new additions are just the start, with a clearer picture of the Graph API's future now available.
Probably the biggest news since the announcement of Instagram’s move to the Graph API, Instagram’s API now supports image publishing. Social media managers rejoice, finally allowed to do away with clunky reminders and native posting, as third-party services begin offering long-awaited post scheduling functionality.
On the developer side of things: this feature is in beta, and currently only available to Facebook and Instagram partners.
Responding to mentions can be crucial to your business’ success, and it’s a feature from the legacy Instagram API Platform I’ve personally been looking forward to seeing implemented in the Graph API since last year. Apps using the Instagram Graph API can now receive and reply to mentions (and even photo tags!) from both comments and posts. This will go hand-in-hand with hashtag search (more on this later) to help businesses ensure they never miss an interaction.
Unlike content publishing and mentions, which I was excited to see, business discovery’s usefulness seems much more limited. Business Discovery lets Instagram business profiles view the profile info and media of other business profiles through the Graph API. While not necessarily a bad addition, unlike the other two new features, I struggle to see many real use cases for this (besides perhaps checking up on competitors’ activity).
Deprecation and Beyond
Goodbye, API Platform
Instagram previously stopped approving new apps on their old API Platform in October of last year. It has now set a timeline to phase it out altogether. While access to read an authenticated user’s profile info and posts will be around until 2020, permissions to follow and comment on non-owned posts will disappear on July 31, 2018, with all other permissions following suit on December 11, 2018.
Hello, Graph API
Instagram intends for the Graph API “primarily to support business use cases.” As there are no plans to bring any support for non-business accounts prior to early 2019, the deprecation timeline means that there will more than likely be a gap where no third-party apps or integrations will be available for personal accounts (other than basic display for one’s own profile). Interestingly, Instagram anticipates “providing time for developers to transition their apps prior to deprecating the capability on the legacy Instagram Platform API.”
What to Expect Going Forward
Instagram is clearly reevaluating features from the Instagram API platform to decide whether they belong in the Graph API. Discussion of upcoming features not mentioned in Instagram’s blog was held under the Instagram Graph API Launch Q&A event on the Facebook Developer Community group (previous quotes are from this Q&A). Replies from Instagram representatives give a fuller picture of the direction Instagram plans to take their API this year.
Here’s a summary for those not in the group:
- Instagram credential login (alongside support for personal profiles in early 2019).
- “Read-only” hashtag search (no announced dates)
- More widely-available content publishing (no announced dates)
Pending Further Assessment
- Location discovery
- Comment likes
- Viewing arbitrary users’ posts
- Non-business account insights
From the language used in their responses, I expect an Instagram API update later this year bringing hashtag search functionality. I would also be unsurprised to see location discovery and wider availability for content publishing arriving after, or even alongside hashtag search.
Are They Missing Anything?
Notably absent so far is any support for stories (and story comments) or direct messages. Instagram has noticeably avoided adding third-party access to either of these since their release, and there is no indication that will change anytime soon. But who knows? Instagram’s product team may end up surprising us again.
While Instagram is undoubtedly experiencing growing pains with the transition to the Graph API, this most recent update is definitely a step in the right direction. I’m excited to see future updates as the API continues to mature.