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Instagraph: Unofficial Instagram app destined for Windows Phone 8 and here’s how it works

Last night we cruelly teased about a potential way for Windows Phone 8 users to post to Instagram right from their devices. To be honest, we did that because it was just too late (too dark) to shoot video and yes, it was a good warm-up.

The good news is no, it is most definitely not a (late) April’s Fools’ joke. It’s 100% legitimate and yes, it will be submitted to the Windows Phone Store very soon.

Read past the break for our video walkthrough and images to serve as a teaser...

Who’s behind Instagraph?

Venetasoft, the same company behind such popular apps as Turbo Camera, Security Toolkit, Cam Broadcaster, Motion Cam, Intrusion Alarm and more security-focused programs for Windows Phone. These guys evidently know a thing or two about network IT, which is a good thing.

How does it work?

So the million dollar question everyone is asking is how did these developers do it? We can’t go into specifics because according to them it’s basically a “secret”. What we can say is that no, Instagram has not given them API access and no, they have not incorporated those APIs in an unofficial method either.

Currently, Instagram only gives API access for browsing files but not for posting.

Instead what seems to be going on here (from our analysis and hints from the developer) is an Azure server-relay method whereby your post goes through their servers to Instagram.  It’s a hack to be sure and far from ideal, but unlike the unofficial Pandora app situation on Windows Phone, this method can’t be suddenly “turned off” by Instagram by changing the API.

What about account creation?

Instagraph for Windows Phone 8

So the other big issue with Instagram is you can’t create user accounts on the web. You can manage them, but not create them. The only way to create an Instagram account is as a first time user is via their official Android or iOS app. That sets up another hurdle for unofficial Instagram app creators.

Instagraph, the first version, does not solve this problem. But the next version does.

Venetasoft have reportedly solved the ability to create accounts through the app itself (once again, most likely relying on a middle-man server) but they said it needs some more testing before being deployed. That means, at least initially, only those with pre-existing accounts can use Instagraph, but it shouldn’t be too long before anyone can use it.

What the app doesn’t do

Instagraph for Windows Phone 8

Interestingly, Instagraph is not a full-featured Instagram client. The app is only meant to post images to your Instagram account but as of now, is not used for browsing photos. Likewise, if you want to comment of favorite one of your own photos, it will open up Internet Explorer to do so.

As far as we can tell, if you want to browse photos (or the people you follow) you will need one of the numerous Windows Phone apps e.g. Metrogram to fulfill that task.

It does work itself nicely into the OS though because the developers have managed to get access to the highly visible “Edit” option when viewing a photo natively.  Currently, only the official Windows Phone photo editor and Nokia’s Creative Studio reside in that spot, meaning Instagraph will have great ease of access. (Currently though it is not a Lens).

Will it pass Windows Phone Store certification?

We can’t of course give a definite on that since the process itself could reveal legitimate issues that need to be resolved by Venetasoft, but yes, the developers to expect it to pass the certification.  In other words, this is not meant to be a proof-of-concept or side project, but a legitimate commercial offering that has required a significant investment in time and money.

It appears to us that the developers behind Instagraph are working with or at least in contact with Microsoft about this project, meaning it should not be a surprise to anyone at this point. We imagine that if Microsoft were prepared to block this due to its mechanics, Venetasoft would be aware of that and would not be pushing forward.

Still, there are no guarantees.

So how is it?

Instagraph for Windows Phone 8

While it’s not an official Instagram client, third-party developers have some advantages over their big brothers in the industry, including speed and the need to be creative.

The experience so far with the app is quite solid and feels seamless—you take a photo (or edit an existing one) using the familiar Aviary photo editor and just hit “submit”. From there it gets queued to Venetasoft’s secure Azure servers and gets posted (the app does not need to remain open during this process either).

It’s a bit of a kludge but certainly feels more native and built in than the BlackBerry BB10 method and let’s face it, it gets the job done.

We’ll have more in the coming days on Instagraph, including app submissions, availability and any further developments.

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

190 Comments
  • Thanks Daniel!!!
    Got spoilered by the youtube video but hey, great app!
     
     
  • Viber with voice is now available also, I just downloaded it.. It's a nice app.
  • Yes, WPCentral posted that before this...
  • Can u post the link download? I can't see it on market maybe cause my country?
  • damn, thought i was going to be first. but im so happy, so much app momentum in the last few weeks and it can only get better from here on out.
  • it's not even in the store yet?!?! UGGGGHHHHH my impatience is growing
  • -.-" is it coming for 7.8?
  • We're left out again as always man its time to upgrade
  • Winnar!
  • How hard can it be to get the official Instagram app for wp..? And when that day comes, it is for sure, only for wp8... (sorry my bad english, but I hope you get a point..?)
  • They answered my e-mail asking:
    Hello Marcus,
    thank you very much for your interest in Instagraph. YES of course, wp7 (and winRT too) are in our roadmap ;) Best,
    David
  • Thats what we can call as Good news! Thanks of information!
  • While i'm excited for this workaround, i really hope Instagram just allows access to the API so we can get a fully functional, fluid experience... (for those that really want Instagram).   The camera on the Nokia 920 was made for an app like this.  Come on Instagram... give in to the pressure.
  • I will say this, don't read into this app coming as an indication that an official solution is not in the works. The two are not connected.
  • only wp8 or wp7.8 comming?
  • so an official app is in the works?
     
  • Reading all this, it seems like instagram is far too high maintenance to deal with. Have to create an account on an iPhone or android? Seems stupid.
  • You can also make one using bluestacks in your computer.
  • Yeah, and I wonder if that's what they're doing here - pushing the upload through the Android app on Bluestacks.
  • Ha, the camera on the 920 is TOO good for blurry notalgic Instagram filters! Why ruin all that gorgeous detail?
  • +1000
  • Or you could do like I do and post your pictures without applying any filters. I know, novel idea. Jeez.
  • You do know that filters are entirely optional
  • Write Instagram on Facebook and ask them to make an app for Windows Phone, I do once a week, if we all do that it might get their attention.
  • Its a start #grateful
  • no wp 7.x support..?
  • They answered my e-mail asking:
    Hello Marcus,
     thank you very much for your interest in Instagraph.
     
    YES of course, wp7 (and winRT too) are in our roadmap  ;)
     
    Best,
    David
  • Hmmm, what do you think they are trying to say?
  • I have a couple #2instawithlove photos I'd like to post.
  • Photoplay + Viber, then this.?? I'm loving my Lumia 920 more and more.. Haha
  • Very cool. Read it later. I have a feeling official one is in the works though, but thanks for the effort
  • Oh snapples!
  • Very happy to have something! Its a great start. Hopefully between this and the #2instawithlove campaign we will with get a third party app with full api access for notifications and such, or the offical. But Im still excited for this.
  • How about the only reason I still prefer Instagram over others: Sharing to Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare with a check-in at the same time?
  • So far this does not have that, which is unfortunate. Then again, that seems like something trivial that can be added later and perhaps it will.
  • No 7.8 support maybe other third party developers can implement this method?
  • They answered my e-mail asking:
    Hello Marcus,
    thank you very much for your interest in Instagraph. YES of course, wp7 (and winRT too) are in our roadmap ;) Best,
    David
  • Ohhhh speculations over folks! Thanks for this Dan.
  • This is great for the platform.  But I'll continue to use WPGram to browse and upload with my Android tablet, as I like IG's "official" filters better than Aviary's.  
    I guess with the recent market share numbers showing some good gains, eventually FB and it's sub-company IG will take notice and develop some official apps for us.  'Til then, we can continue the waiting game.
  • So a hack that requires you to hand over login details to a third-party... what can go wrong here...
    Plus this will be shut down as soon as Instagram learns about it!
  • Yup..
  • Are you new to the internet?
  • Pardon?
  • How many third-party companies/apps/programs do you enter your login details to? This app certianly isn't going to be anyone's first. Just by having a phone you have provided your login details to a third party
  • So you know nothing about the Internet then...
    Most modern apps use OAUTH - which does not give login details to third parties! However if this app uses cloud, it will be impossible.
  • I know what OAUTH is, but I am not naive enough to think that every third party app is utilizing it to log into every service I own. Don't think that Apple, Google, or Microsoft don't know the usernames/passwords that you've added to your phone(s). Also, while OAUTH is useful in preventing third parties from seeing your password, it doesn't prevent those third parties from having access to you account(s) after you login, they will still be able to see everything you do through them with your account, whether it be instagram, twitter, facebook, etc. OAUTH is definitely a good thing, better then it was pre-OAUTH, but don't go thinking it automatically protects you like an iron shield.
    You are worried about someone having your instagram credentials? I am sure that isn't the most sensitive information you've ever inputted online. Are you one of those people that believe that what you put onto the internet stays private?
  • From the article: "Instagraph, the first version, does not solve this problem. But the next version does."
     
    To my knowledge, Instagram would have to know about the process to allow this to happen. 
  • Just a guess but they're either 1) emulating an android/ios phone in the cloud, or 2) have actually intercepted the web calls those platforms make, and are spoofing a legit client through azure? Good stuff, even if I am wrong, which is likely. But likely this mode of update will get shut down.
  • I thought about this a few days after getting my Lumia and wondering why, of all the ingenuity on the internet, someone couldn't get some alternate methods to access the permission to upload to Instagram with all the brilliant photo apps we have. I don't consider myself very tech saavy (as far as infrastructure works), but I will say the second the desktop Windows OS has access to something like Bluestacks I can't imagine how the opportunity to use technology like that to open up the platform to what Android has to offer wasn't talked about more (I mean, look at what BB10 is doing in that regard). And that's not even to say we need an emulation layer in the phone - a lot of things can be done remotely as necessary. No one will believe me, but as I was thinking about it I pretty much thought up what they're doing in 10 or 15 minutes (implementing it I suppose, is another thing) where basically you just have an emulation server set up that takes the information from the phone software, logs in on the emulated application, posts it, logs out, and moves on to the next user. Obviously, the mechanics of that are simplified and god knows it would get backed up with thousands of people, but potentially, with some work, a more elegant way could be figured out. I'm guessing they took that idea and ran with it, which is good, because someone needed to eventually. Hell, if I knew anything about programming or mobile development I would have tried it already.
  • And now the reson no one is doing this :) The costs. The azure is not free. And everyone will expect a free instagram nothing less. So you have montly costs, anual costs(dev account) and you also have to give this for free. The presence of aviary logo on the screenshots sugest that they opted for the free version of the aviary(not hte 500/month version). So costs for this are so high and if they are going to give this for free it can only serve them as publicity nothing else.
  • Wow are u serious windows phone 8 only ...its about time for me to jump this sinking 7.x ship
  • Awesome. Now lets all follow each other. Screen names? @samsabri
  • Lol follow me too :P http://instagram.com/shortstuff808
  • @rikster81
  • @usn_em
  • Cool, but...
  • Pretty logical really and how many apps can and do work. Although the azure relay method is sensible as stuff changes and breaks.
  • Weak sauce...this isn't anything to get excited over.
  • I also hate it when sauce is weak. Flavour is everything
  •  
    Aghh Why did I delete my account? :( And know i can't reactivate it without an Android or iOS phone :(
    Any case, I think Instagram OFFICIAL app should come soon to the Store to the bneficit of WP...
  • Get bluestacks on your comp and use that to create a new account
  • Thanks!! I'll try it :)
  • Love that idea! I'll try it when it is available!
  • bluestacks? It already is available..
    http://www.bluestacks.com/
     
    also.. this .. http://bit.ly/Lcparg
  • Just borrow an iPhone/Android device to activate an account... God knows there are millions of them out there. :-/
  • I am too proud of my Windows Phone to borrow an iphone/android device :) I would rather go back to dumbphone than borrow any of those!
  • Bravo. Hope it becomes available this week
  • @luiskperez
    #followTeam
  • How come bberry z10 has a instagram app, android port, but wp8 cant do the same ??
  • Did you even read the article you've linked to? There is no Instagram for Blackberry!
  • It's not even a port. IT IS the android app.
  • Because bb10 can run android apps in a vm and windows phone doesn't work in the same way
  • It's a half-port of the Android version, doesn't count.
  • "half-port" or not, still works...
  • We don't need the Laggy android ports, even a 3rd party native solution is better than a lousy,buggy,Laggy Android port.
  • Cool so now again we have great, creative developers doing what the big companies are too lazy to do :-) I can't help but be reminded of all the people who were on the fence jumping from Android and iPhone that I showed metro radio, because they just had to have Pandora. Here we go for round 2 of the converters.
  • So in other words like LINE. Must use its app to sign up. Again, with these effing idiots making you sign up via applications. Besides, I CAN live WITHOUT Instagram. It's called upload the pictures to other places. Facebook is no other, and... yeah, you know that FB bought iGram. Why even bother.
    And these kids... gosh darnit... you can live without Instagram. Us 80s babies had to go through the "no video games" portion of parenting.
  • Why hasn't someone tried to port W8 RT onto a NL920, or 8X? This seems very possible.
  • Random, I know... Lol!!
  • Well that would be really cool, but the UEFI chip would block any foreign software, but if that were to be broken in someway we would have jailbreaks for WP8 and cool stuff like this ;)
  • @sedp23
  • @jholso
  • This is great but seems a little clunky. Sucks that Instagram is making us go this route, but hey, i'll take whatever we can get.. Cheers to the developers on their hard work!
  • Looks nice! cant wait to try it out! 
     
  • Thanks for the write-up.  It's strange that they were able to find a work-around to upload photos to Instagram but didn't include a browse function that many other apps have.  Hopefully the app is in the Marketplace long enough for them to release an update to allow this.
  • I suspect that this will be because they are going under the radar. Using the API would make it too easy for Instagram to cripple half the functionality when they found out who was doing it, so its better left out...
  • I heard that will come to Windows phone 7.x later. I just wanna know that Daniel Rubino. I don't care to share in facebook, we can always copy the link facebook after and past. But I really wanna know if they will release for wp7x.
  • I'm happy that it doesn't have Instagram's blessing. That will teach them to be arrogant and not release a WP app!
     
  • Come on Venetasoft, don't forget about us 7.x users! I'd happily pay for this
  • I wonder if they have an array of android emulators running instagram. Each time a photo is submitted it logs the user in to an emulator, submits the photo, and then logs the user out of the client so another user can upload a photo using that emulator. We are now going to these lengths. Fun to speculate.
  • My guess as well.
  • I am waiting Daniel Rubino, who made contact to the developers, if he knows like photoplay, that there is a version of wp7x  coming or not?
  • This seems like nice effort, but this is just workaround. Daniel's mentioning in the article that these devs think Instagram cannot shut down the way they are posting to Instagram is BS. Anything is possible. This will either get shutdown through technical ways or legal pressure. However thus seems like a nice way for the devs to market there company and get some attention. I will stay away for the time being...
  • I agree.  I am sure the way this is being done is to capture the data on the phone, send that to a server, and then proxy from there to instagram so it looks like a browser session.  This is a TOS violation and will certainly be turned off in no time.
     
  • We are 100% compliant with Instagram conditions and dont violate any terms. We spent lot of money on this project, Instagraph is legally covered too.
    As many of you, we were tired that an important App as Instagram were missing from our Store.
    So, after contracting them without success, we start brainstorming about how we could solve this legally.
    Here cames Instagraph, after tons of RedBulls and 4x initial budget :)
  • As I mentioned, I am sure that this was not easy and as you mention a lot of effort was put into it.  However, there is nothing stopping Instagram from changing something that may or may not "break" your technical implementation of publishing to their service.  And from what was described in the article, your technical implementation may use some proxy server to actually doing the publishing to Instagram rather than having the publishing implementation occurring in your app on the phone.  If Instagram does (and will eventually at some point) open their API, to allow publishing, you only have to change your code on the proxy server and not your app on the phone.  So like I said it is a good way for your company to market itself and get on the Instagram bandwagon and get Instagram users on your app instead of the official app.
    As for the legal implications, sounds like you are covered.  But Instagram is part of Facebook, and that is a big company with I am sure a lot more lawyers than your company.
    Good luck.
  • They cannot stop Instagraph, nor legally, not technically (trust me :).
  • Thank you so much for this. Really appreciate your hard work!
  • The collection of authentication credentials is a TOS violation, just for starters
  • I don't know the TOS for Instagram (I don't even use the service), so I can't comment too much on that anymore.  But the strategy (although risky) for venetasoft in marketing what they have developed, even though its not released yet, is working. :-)
  • I want a offical Instagram!!!
  • Nice work around bit I'm not that excited for it... Not sure if I want to give a third party my info.
  • Hmm. Guess I'll be waiting for an official one then. I'll give this a try for a bit.
  • Microsoft's Kodu challenge invites the younger generation to design games great move to attract the youths to the platform
  • I will download this with the quickness. And just use bluestacks or a kindle to sign up for instagram. It really is all about the community
  • Really disappointed after last night's tease. Was really looking forward to a full client. Following and posting to Facebook are mandatory for full Instagram experience. At least I got Viber today but this app is not what I was hoping for. Hopefully Instagram releases their APIs soon so we can experience the Microsoft app.
  • Does instagram not have an email upload service?
  • It's good to have an app that can upload to Instagram, but I was expecting it to have the ability to browse and comment.
     
    If the API it's open enough we will see great 3rd party clients that can browse, upload and do anything the official app can do, but I do hope for an official app as well.
  • Great work-around. Let's hope for the sake of those who have spent time on this that there won't be an official application any time soon. I do think, however, that from the recent "white-listing" talk one could conclude that either a) there is an official WP app in the works OR b) Nokia or WP will get their app whitelisted which will provide a full-blown Instagram client without any financial investment from Instagram team.
  • Please make it available for 7.8 devices!
    Please make it available for 7.8 devices!
    Please make it available for 7.8 devices!
    Please make it available for 7.8 devices!
    Please make it available for 7.8 devices!
    Please make it available for 7.8 devices!
     
  • They answered my e-mail asking:
    Hello Marcus,
     thank you very much for your interest in Instagraph.
     
    YES of course, wp7 (and winRT too) are in our roadmap  ;)
     
    Best,
    David
  • It's a start
  • I think it's somewhat mean and OS-ist of instagram to keep on ignoring us WP users. So I feel totally justified when I wish that they will just crash down and get their servers swallowed by a sinkhole -_-;;
  • It's certainly interesting. Will try this out once I get my Nokia Lumia 920 back (it's with Nokia ATM due to that annoying dust issue)
  • Nice work by the devs on this one. Interested to see how it works and if instagram will do something to block access.