(Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct an inaccuracy regarding Instagram's "Posts You've Liked" feature. We regret the error, and all changes are marked with strike-through text below.)
Avid Instagram users love the photo-based, social-sharing site for its cool filters and image-editing tools. However, some odd features and a lack of important functionality degrade the overall experience and limit creativity. Here are four simple things Instagram could do to vastly improve its social network.
1) Instagram searches quickly disappear, hashtags don't
If you regularly search for the same handful of Instagram accounts, you know how annoying it can be when the app deletes those "favorites." Specifically, when you click on the search bar on the app's "Discover page," you can search by username, and Instagram saves the last 10 accounts you searched for under a "Top" tab — but not for long. Every few days, the app deletes those 10 account-searches, which doesn't make a lot of sense because they're the accounts you want to see most often. This can also make it difficult to remember new users you looked at recently, but didn't follow. Also, a limit of 10 saved searches probably isn't enough for enthusiastic Instagram users.
Instagram doesn't treat hashtags the same way; the app stores more recently searched hashtags than usernames. For example, my app still shows the #4thofjuly hashtag in my saved searches, but it already deleted accounts I viewed just a few days ago. It also saved 17 recent hashtags I used or clicked on, but within the "Tags" tab on the search page, it saved, or shows, only five, which makes no sense.
2) No way to create lists of favorite Instagram pics Twitter lets you "favorite" messages, or "tweets," and store them in a Favorite Tweets list. Facebook also keeps track of the things you recently "Liked" or commented on. Instagram doesn't offer any sort of comparable feature. You can Like hundreds of pictures within the app with a double-tap on your display, but those items aren't saved anywhere for future reference. You can capture screenshots of pictures you really like, but this workaround is inconvenient. And it can be tough to quickly look up photos you liked and saved to your phone weeks, months or years ago.
2) Too many Instagram add-ons, not enough core functionality
A ton of convenient add-on apps exist for Instagram that serve as fillers for important features the app lacks. But that's a problem. There are simply too many of these third-party apps, and the company seems hesitant to simply integrate their features into its own core functionality.
For example, the Instasize app lets your resize long or wide photos so they fit into Instagram's rigid, square photo box. Repost allows you to literally repost other users' photos by copying a photo, along with its photo caption and a username, giving the person who posted the image credit when you share it. Picstitch makes photo collages for posting on social networks, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. (Instagram has its own photo-collage app, called Layout, but you still need to use a separate app to take advantage of the features.) The company probably doesn't want to alienate the crafty developers who created all of these valuable apps, but from a user perspective, it would be better to integrate the most popular features from these, and other, add-on apps into the official Instagram app.
3) Instagram makes you post square pictures
Instagram pictures are purposefully square, so when you scroll on a smartphone or tablet, pictures aren't truncated and captions aren't cut. However, that means you can't post panoramic pictures or photos that are long, or thin, without chopping key elements of the images. It would be nice to be able to post a larger photo, without cropping or using the Instasize app to force it into a square shape. Simply put: Some photos are not meant to be square.
4) No place for links, except the profile page
The phrase "link in profile" is commonly used on Instagram today, because you can't include URLs along with photo posts. To circumvent this limitation, many users frequently update the URLs on their profile pages. Instagram recently rolled out a new button below advertisers' photos, next to the Like button, that lets viewers shop for related products, download apps or learn more. But for regular users, there's nothing comparable.
One way around the problem is to use services with affiliate links, such as LikeToKnow.It, which send users who Like specific posts an email with related links. But this method is far from perfect, and it requires several steps. Instagram really ought to do its users a favor and let them post links with photos.