Instagram, Windows Phone and the great Tag kerfuffle using third party apps

While users on Windows Phone have been enjoying the ability to post to Instagram both unofficially (Instagraph, Instance, etc.) and officially (Hipstamatic Oggl), there has been one complicated and vexing issue haunting people: tags.

The concern can be best explained as thus: when users post using third party apps from Windows Phone, those images are not searchable if they use a hashtag. For example, if you publish using Instance with the hashtag “#wp8” in theory when you use the search key to find other photos with “#wp8”, you should see your latest post indexed. However, this is not the case as your image will be hidden.

Rudy Huyn, the developer working on the forthcoming 6tagram app has posted an article via his blog explaining the situation. The news is not very good and highlights the continued cat and mouse game between Windows Phone developers and the services they are trying to make apps for.


A test of hashtags from a flagged account

When Instagram instituted their new security fixes a few weeks ago to reduce spam-bots and unauthorized breaches, the changes also had the side effect of causing interference with third party apps on Windows Phone. The first round of that was any image posted was automatically deleted after about fifteen seconds. That was later improved so that your images stuck, but they were then marked “private” meaning only your followers could see it. Finally, the strings were loosened once more and again, your images were visible to everyone.

At the time, that was great news. However, it is now becoming clear that all is still not right. Images posted with third party apps with a hashtag won’t have those images indexed to be searchable on the Instagram network. That means if we posted a photo of an unreleased Windows Phone with the hashtag #wp8, the only people who would see it were those who follow us (or via other social networks e.g. Twitter, Facebook, if we chose to share it there as well).

Hashtags, like on Twitter, are an important tool for discovery on the photo sharing network. Without them it makes it hard to increase your follower count, as it will only be by word of mouth or other social networks that new users can see your contribution. 

Who’s affected?

Huyn's 6tagram "warning" has ruffled some feathers amongst developers

The consensus seems to be that anyone who posted via Instance, Instagraph (rarer, though still possible) and InstaPic (for Windows 8) now have their accounts flagged for hashtag indexing. Even users of the 6tagram beta (version 12 and earlier) will have been marked by Instagram as potentially being spam.

Our account at daniel_rubino has been identified as offending, making our hashtags useless. That account was created on Android, first posted using Instagraph, with the bulk of the uploaded images via Instance.

Can you be removed from the blacklist?

The forthcoming Instance v2.0 may solve this problem

Yes, in theory, but it gets complicated. In short, if you stop using those offending apps and logout from them, after around seven days your account may be normalized, but that is merely speculation at this point.

The flipside to this is that currently none of the apps in question (except 6tagram beta), actually send the proper logout request to Instagram. Instead, they only wipe the login credentials and cookies locally on the device. Until those developers add in that ability, users simply won’t have a method to get off of the blacklist anytime soon.

Is there a solution for future users?

Yes, so far at least with 6tagram beta 13 and going forward, the problem has been resolved thru a hack. That means when 6tagram hits the Windows Phone Store officially for public release, new users should be ok. Likewise if you never posted to Instagram or have only used the 6tagram beta.

It’s not clear if the developers behind Instagraph, InstaPic or Instance will have similar solutions, though Daniel Gary (developer behind Instance) is aware of the problem and may have a solution for his customers too in his upcoming Instance version 2.0.

The price of not being official and unintented consequences

At this point, Windows Phone users are still being punished for not having an official app from Instagram. While these third party options offer a way in, despite their well-polished design they are still second tier and will suffer these impediments in development.

While it’s our understanding that Microsoft and Instagram are still having talks and an app from Microsoft is ready (complete with lockscreen support and notifications) there is no evidence that a release is impending due to the lack of an agreement between the two companies. Indeed, Microsoft could be angling for deep-level access akin to Facebook and LinkedIn for its users--but that process could take time.

For now, Windows Phone users will just have to get by and put up with these difficulties.

Source: Rudy Huyn’s Blog

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.