How I saved $1Bn and built my own instagram

So Facebook bought Instagram for a cool $1Bn, and now Twitter has launched their own insta-copy and now Intagram say they have the rights to sell your photos!

This is why I always say “if the product is free, the product is me”. All the more reason to take full control of all my photos and data, and build my own “instagram”.

I’ve been photoblogging since 2006, starting with Shozu (remember them – what happened to these guys??) sending my mobile photos to Flickr in real time.

Enter Twitter and I initially used Twitpic as everyone else did, but I became tired of the non-existent mobile interface and ads all over the site – something that Instagram is about to introduce as well.

The problem with Twitpic, and Yfrog is as you can see below, they are littered with ads and look horrible on a mobile phone.



In 2009 I swapped to Mobypicture after meeting Mathys van Abbe in Amsterdam. It is similar in functionality to and other photo sharing sites – with a nice mobile interface and thankfully no ads. Also Mobypicture allows you to post to multiple social networking sites simultaneously.


Even Mobypicture does not meet all of my needs, as I want my own URL shortener to be used when I share the picture and not their one. This is because I like to get the stats of who’s clicking and looking at my pictures, and also helps with branding.

When I moved my site across to WebHostingBuzz and a dedicated server, I decided to “roll my own” photo sharing service – here’s how you can too.

How to roll your own Instagram in 5 steps

  1. Set up a new site or a subdomain of your site such as

  2. Set up a completely new instance of WordPress here

  3. Install the WP Postie plugin that allows you to email a picture to a secret email address, and the plugin grabs the picture and posts it straight away

  4. Install the YOURLS WordPress to Twitter plugin – this complements an existing YOURLs branded shortener at that shortens all of my links (also works with

  5. Grab the amazing “Autofocus Lite” WordPress theme that displays the photos brilliantly

That’s it. With this you have your own “Instagram-esque” site.

So how can this save me $1Bn and why is it better than Instagram?

When shooting a mobile picture on my device, I simply email it to my blog, with the text of the tweet in the subject line.

Postie then does all the rest, and YOURLS WordPress to Twitter shortens the link and then tweets it as me!


Getting the Instagram look

How do I achieve the cool Instagram filters? On my HTC One X, filters are included within the camera app.

The benefits of this “roll your own” Instagram are numerous

  1. It drives traffic to my photo blog, and you can also browse the other photos there taken at different times easily

  2. It shortens the links automatically as my branded links and is much shorter than

  3. You can easily comment on the pages using the livefyre comment feature

  4. It has a cool mobile optimised version using WPTouch (try viewing on your mobile to see what I mean)

  5. There are no ads!

  6. I have full control of the site and the pictures


I am sure that some of you reading this post will argue that I have my own server, know what I am doing etc – but that’s my point.

If I can do it, and I am not a web designer, just an experienced blogger using a mix of open-source tools, then why is something that is technically better and has more features than Instagram cost exactly $0 in incremental funds to set up??

I say $0 in incremental funds as I already have the server and space and the plugins and themes were free.

Creating your own services for and Twitter clients

Now I have my own server, I’m moving all of my other 3rd party services across there.

I use YOURLS for my URL shortener – see why at – bye bye

I use the amazing DABR Twitter client on my mobile and desktop so have no need for a 3rd party Twitter app, and now I have my own Instagram.

I’m in the process of moving my 600+ photos over at Mobypicture to, and in the process it has been fun to see what I have been taking pictures of over the last 4 years.

If you enjoyed this blog post you may like other related posts listed below under You may also like ...

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Based in London, Andrew is an internationally renowned thought leader in the field of social business and social media networks. Andrew is Global Managing Partner, Social Consulting at IBM.

  • (@convers8tion) (@Convers8tion)

    London Calling » How I saved $1Bn and built my own Instagram

  • (@pmobiweb) (@pmobiweb)

    London Calling: How I saved $1Bn and built my own Instagram: Interesting news that Facebook has bought Instagram…

  • Maciej Matyjas (@matyjas)

    How I saved $1Bn and built my own Instagram //

  • Aouse Al-Rawi (@Aouse)

    RT @matyjas: How I saved $1Bn and built my own Instagram //

  • Peter Caltner (@PC0101)

    Any ideas what to do with $1Bn saved?;) RT @GabrielleNYC: RT @AndrewGrill: How I saved $1Bn and built my own #Instagram

  • Ed

    Nice homebrew solution – must look at setting up something similar myself. While I agree this is a worthwhile pursuit I think your blog post title has a touch of linkbait off it (but it’s a bloody good title!) The $1bn Facebook sent was mainly for user/community acquisition rather than the tech.

  • nyk (@inyk)

    RT @AndrewGrill: How I saved $1Bn and built my own Instagram

  • Andrew Grill

    Ed, thanks for linking the title! Agree FB probably bought the users/community than the tech – although how many Instagram users are also Facebook users? Probably close to 100%.

    The intent of the post was more about the fact that users don’t have to just rely on a mainstream picture service (none of which are perfect), and that there are homebrew solution such as this.

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    How I saved $1Bn and built my own Instagram

  • Zachary Jeans (@zacharyjeans)

    RT @AndrewGrill: Facebook’s Instagram Acquisition Now Only Worth $735 Million. Just as well I built my own for $0!

  • KnowledgeBank

    Like +1 clicky

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    Clicky is THE best analytics program. Period. I rave about them wherever I go and I PAY for the service.

  • Nathan Ayers

    Did you have to do anything special with your WordPress installation to get the YOURLS shortlinks to display automatically? (Rather than having the long permalinks continue to display as the URL on new or updated posts.)

  • Andrew Grill

    I had to use the plugin but it is still tricky. Looks ok for the end user – messy for the admin