Top 6 Apps Like Instagram and How to Develop One

Creating an Instagram clone makes sense even though it may seem presumptuous to some extent. Instagram is the fourth most-visited mobile app in the world and the fifth-largest social media. At the same time, the niche of social networks is not monopolized yet: TikTok is right on the heels of YouTube while thousands of users are leaving Facebook for Telegram.

Photo-sharing apps like Instagram will never leave the stage since modern people are obsessed with self-made visuals. That’s why Instagram is not the only social media app that allows sharing photos and videos on the internet. 

Let’s consider an opportunity to fight for a certain piece of the photo-sharing pie through your own Instagram-like application. Some available alternatives to Instagram can serve as models.

Whether it be a clone of Instagram or something totally different, we will explain how to develop a photo-sharing app that can make many of the current Instagram users migrate to a new playground – but first things first!

Instagram: Accession to the throne 

Various photo-sharing apps were available before 2010 when Instagram saw the light. But none of them has reached the commercial success of the latter. Today, more than a billion active monthly users worldwide make Instagram the fifth most popular social media app.

Instagram remained an independent project for not so long: Facebook purchased the app for $1 billion in 2012. After a decade, Instagram capitalization is estimated at about $100 billion. Not bad for an enterprise having no physical assets!

What is the secret to such growth? Neither expensive promotion by Facebook nor the variety of photo-editing capabilities can make Instagram the King. Quite a specific functionality has transformed Instagram into a hybrid of a photo-sharing app and a social media.


And this is, probably, the reason why both personalities and businesses have started appreciating Instagram so much. People have gained a great opportunity to communicate and express themselves via self-made visuals while companies have found another effective tool to boost their businesses.

Instagram engagement is an important metric for about 80% of American businesses. At least half of Instagram users follow one or more corporate accounts. Instagram sponsored content is continuously growing under the #ad hashtag. 

The app has become a decision-making assistant for 80% of shoppers. Instagram Stories cover 500 million users while ⅓ of the most viewed ones belong to businesses, according to stats

Instagram is not just a photo-sharing app anymore; it is a global vehicle for sales and a viral entertainment portal at the same time. Moreover, the platform keeps evolving with fresh features continuously. Neither individuals nor businesses are left without attention.

Current features of Instagram:

  • The Instagram Stories Link sticker allows small businesses to share their product pages’ links directly. Also, it helps boost website traffic for those who make money from the growing number of visitors;
  • The Collab feature represents an opportunity to create posts and reels in collaboration with other users. You can invite them to share the same content in all of the involved grids;
  • The Map search feature helps users find various businesses in close proximity. Furthermore, they can choose between different categories such as restaurants, hotels, shops, etc;
  • The Remix Reels allows incorporating others’ reels into yours to encourage your creativity. You can sing a duet, leave funny comments, and do many other cool things not from scratch;
  • The Live Rooms feature connects several users to participate in the same live session. You can invite three more users to create a shared live show and jump between their sessions and yours.

Top 6 social apps like Instagram

Competitors of the King exist, nonetheless. Dozens of photo-sharing apps are available on the market. It is worth mentioning the top 6  best apps like Instagram before we get to the rationale behind the development of your own Instagram clone.

1. Pinterest

The service is popular especially among female audiences who share photos that reflect their ideas on home improvement, handcrafted items, cooking recipes, etc. And just bragging about a new dress is not a sin, right? Hence, Pinterest is more about “things” unlike Instagram which is more about users.

Besides, Pinterest provides sharing your content with no redundant social interaction that is inherent in Instagram.

Pinterest, nonetheless, is not alienated from business. Such an AR-powered feature as “Try on”, for example, contributes to both shoppers and e-stores. Cosmetic brands (Sephora, Urban Decay, etc.) appreciate the feature very much.

The Pinterest Predicts feature provides another business-centric property: it helps forecast future trends when 8 out of 10 predictions come true.

2. Flickr

This Instagram-like app allows uploading a lot of visuals in batches by simple drag and drop. Additionally, photos can be exported to multiple albums in a couple of clicks. It is very convenient for professional photographers and designers.

Flickr allows sending messages, but the app is focused on inspiration mostly, not on communication. Sponsored content is prohibited in Flickr. If business promotion is just what annoys you on Instagram, Flickr seems to be a decent Instagram alternative.


This visual-editing application is popular among many bloggers who use it to process their photos. But VSCO is a fully-fledged photo-sharing social media as well. There are a lot of filters and various editing tools in the app, but comments and “likes” are not available.

Hence, you can share your content via VSCO with no social pressure in contrast to many other social networks including Instagram.

4. BeReal

This project stands aside from all the other popular apps similar to Instagram. The app functionality implies using both cameras of your smartphone simultaneously: it is amazing to watch the facial expressions of users when they take photos.

Especially when they have to do it spontaneously against the sudden notifications that come every day at a random time to make the app users capture photos in 2 minutes. Besides, no filter is used to leave the natural appearance of users at that moment. This is a challenge if not a quest!

5. Snapchat

One of the oldest photo-sharing alternatives to Instagram offers an intuitive user interface along with quite rich functionality. Probably, the funniest feature of the app is the Lenses powered by AI. You can change your appearance to look older or younger, for instance.

6. Imgur

Unlimited uploads in bulk even without a registered account, which makes Imgur another decent alternative to Instagram. This is about a variety of visuals (excluding, probably, PSD files only) that users can share via this app. In addition to the large galeries, quite rich photo editing functionality is available.

The list of top Instagram-like apps is not limited by those 6 solutions. There are some other decent alternatives such as Retrica, Flipagram, Cluster, and We Heart It to name a few. But even the most cursory analysis of the above-mentioned similar apps like Instagram reveals that they can potentially compete with Instagram on equal footing.

This is just because they all are “niche products” that have no need to cross the King: they are evolving in parallel to satisfy their specific audiences. And that can be the first clue for those who want to know how to develop an app like Instagram

Looking to develop Instagram alternative app?

We can help you turn your idea into reality and build a photo sharing app like Instagram with unique features that will truly stand out.

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Basic functionality of Instagram-like apps

Even though you are going to create an exact clone of Instagram when the general concept along with architecture is crystal clear, the development of your photo-sharing app like Instagram should start from a minimum viable product (MVP). This is reasonable in light of both the cost-efficiency and potential risks inherent in the ever-evolving market. 

Main features should come first, you will always have time to add non-essential options later.

The following elements of the user panel constitute the basic features of Instagram:

  • Authorization – Users should be able to signup via email, phone number, and accounts on other social media platforms including Google and Apple ID. Additionally, the restore option, password reset, and login via Face ID should also be available.
  • Profile editing – Private data of users can be accessible only to profile owners and admins. Such a protected section allows users to edit personal data and set up the appearance and visibility of their profiles. Payment gateways, if available, should be placed in the section as well.
  • Uploading photos and videos – The foundation of sites like Instagram is the back-end platform that provides content loading and storage. The function should be intuitive and easy to use. 
  • Photo editing – Rich photo-editing functionality helps your app successfully compete with other social media apps like Instagram as little else does. The more filters and settings that are available, the larger the chances you will have of attracting new users.
  • Messaging, commenting, liking – The very essence of any site similar to Instagram lies in communication. Users should be able to communicate in real time. A chat room and push notifications serve the function. A video conference can also be available, but the option is not essential. To enhance user engagement, such options as comments, tags, likes, claims, and content sharing should be available as well.
  • Feed – This is the main element of a user interface via which users interact with each other and the app. Everything happening in the social media app happens right here.
  • Linking with social networks – Such a feature prevents users from feeling trapped inside a closed infrastructure of a single app. Social networks should orchestrate the user experience when various platforms are easily interlinked. Users should be able to couple their profiles with other social media to automate content sharing through several apps. The reverse publishing won’t go amiss as well.
  • Geolocation – A decent Instagram-like social media app should never induce a sense of spatial isolation. The geolocation feature allows finding other users and businesses nearby. Besides, users can share their locations via the app to enhance socializing. 
  • Search – It helps find other users via nicknames, hashtags, and keywords. Corresponding search filters can simplify the task with various indicators such as popularity, uploading dates, number of comments, ratings, location, and the like.
  • Stories – Sharing valuable moments and experiences via Instagram-like social media is critical for the success of the app. The feature should combine the 24-hour temporary stories and the highlighted “pinned” ones that can stay permanently. The “disappearing” stories happened to be one of the most popular Instagram new features in due time. 
  • Adjust settings – Any social media picture app should have adjustable parameters of a user interface. Language, confidentiality, security settings, push notifications on/off, and the like.

Along with a user panel, a toolbar for admins is a must-have. The platform management, corporate policy compliance, communication with users, and prevention against violations of the user agreement all belong to the functionality of the admin panel. The admin panel is among the basic features of Instagram as we believe.

Instagram technology stack

To grasp how to build apps like Instagram, it is necessary to have a clear idea about both Instagram features and an appropriate technology stack. Everything listed below is not a dogma, of course. Contemporary software development is very elastic to offer numerous technologies and frameworks to build apps like Instagram.

However, one of the exemplary technology stacks might include the following:

  • JavaScript and React.js for the website user interface;
  • React Native that fits both iOS and Android;
  • Java and/or Python as server side languages;
  • Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, and EBS provide computing capabilities;
  • PostgreSQL provides data storage;
  • Webpack for DevOps tasks; and 
  • Google Maps as a third-party tool for geolocation.

Instagram monetization: How Instagram makes money

Multi-channel monetization is what can provide your Instagram-like app with sustainable profitability. Consider how to diversify your income to stay financially independent regardless of what might happen on the market.

The following monetization strategies are just a few of the many income-generating methods you can apply to your app:


  • Sponsored posts – Provide your users with an opportunity to promote their posts for money. Instagram, by the way, receives the lion’s share of its income just from the paid content that users share in Stories, posts, and ads.
  • Shopping – Learn from Instagram which has launched the Checkout feature enabling users to make purchases right in the app. You can charge either users or stores (or both, why not?) a commission for each order made through your photo-sharing app.
  • Picture Ads – Similar to Instagram, you can offer special Business profiles for companies and entrepreneurs. Having wider functionalities, such profiles help boost business promotions through pictures that forward users to product pages. Besides, the promoted pictures have a Call-To-Action button. At the same time, ordinary users can pay for premium functions in the form of advanced filters and more customizable profile options.
  • Video Ads – The essence of video ads is similar to how picture ads work. The only difference is in the type of content. Promoted videos bring users to product pages, Call-To-Action buttons are available as well. 
  • Carousel Ads – A series of pictures and videos having CTA buttons drive users to product pages. Instagram’s monetization strategy hints at this type of promotion as being the most popular one among businesses since it can much better demonstrate the available product range.
  • Stories Ads – Pop-up pages appear when users view stories. CTA in the form of swipe-up features redirects users to the promoted pages.
  • Facebook Advert – Everyone knows that Instagram is included in the Facebook ecosystem. Nothing weird is in the opportunity to promote something on Instagram through Facebook. Therefore, it works even if you don’t have an account on Instagram.
  • IGTV Ads – Similar to other video-streaming services such as YouTube and TikTok, the IGTV long video platform provides a traditional monetization model through ads.
  • Ads in Explore – Promoters can reach target audiences by using the Explore feature that presents different posts to everyone. They bet on open-minded users with proactive curiosities. 
  • Collection Ads – Users can find a series of pictures and videos under a cover image reflecting the essence of a collection. 

Marketing strategy 

To make your future Instagram-like app popular, an effective marketing campaign should be created and launched in advance. It can bring potential users to you before the app is officially released.

Instagram, by the way, became popular due to word-of-mouth when people were trying a new service to recommend it to their friends and followers on other social media.


To get people talking about your new social media picture app you can do the following:

  • Create dedicated pages on social platforms to start communicating with your future target audience. Why not promote your alternative to Instagram via Instagram? The user base can appear even before your photo-sharing app sees the light. Furthermore, you can induce various informational causes to make viral word-of-mouth spread across the internet.
  • Launch a referral program to reward users for bringing their friends to your Instagram-like app. Special photo effects and filters can act as a reward. What if some “secret” features become accessible after your users fulfill certain sponsored tasks such as sharing info about your app on Facebook?
  • Engage influencers who have popular profiles on other social media. Offer them either free advertising on your Instagram-like social media app or free access to premium photo-editing features. Use any sort of engagement to make influencers promote your Instagram-like app among their followers.
  • Keep doing proactive PR campaigns among those professionals who can be potentially interested in your social media picture app. Reach as many famous photo stylists, journalists, and bloggers as possible for interviews and guest posts. Don’t be too shy to appear intrusive with your cold calls: even multiple rejections should not stop you when it comes to your success.

Remember that continuous marketing effort is your karma, like it or leave it. You will have a long way to go before your Instagram-like site starts working in a self-sustaining mode.

Keep your eye on the Instagram capitalization model, and whenever doubtful concerns start whispering in your ear that the game isn’t worth the candle, don’t get down, stay strong and keep moving forward. You can, however, reduce many concerns if your future Instagram-like app is rooted in a properly developed MVP.


The half-empty niche of photo-sharing is far from being overheated with severely competing apps like Instagram. Pinterest, Flickr, VCSO, as well as a few other available photo-sharing apps like Instagram cannot cover the entire global audience: people are obsessing with self-made photos and videos.  

So, create your concept, select a monetization model, prepare a marketing campaign on social media, and get your piece of the photo-sharing pie: we have delivered almost everything you should know about how to develop an app like Instagram in the present post.

If you still have questions and doubts, don’t hesitate to contact us right now: an individual approach to your project along with reasonable pricing is guaranteed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to build an app like Instagram?

The working time approximation can include 250-450 hours for iOS development, 250-400 hours for Android development, and 200-350 hours for back-end development.

A lot depends on the scope of features you would like to have in your Instagram-like application: the richer the functionality, the longer the development period.

How much does it cost to build an app like Instagram?

The development hourly rate can significantly vary depending on the location of your developers. Indian developers, for example, could cost $20-25/hour while developers from the USA would request no less than $75/hour for the same job.

Hence, $50 can be considered as an average hourly rate. In such a case, the complete development of an Instagram-like app can cost about $35K – $60K.

How does Instagram make money?

The following elements of the Instagram monetization strategy allow Instagram to make big money:

  • Sponsored posts;
  • Embedded shopping;
  • Picture ads;
  • Video ads;
  • Carousel ads;
  • Collection ads;
  • Stories ads;
  • IGTV ads;
  • Ads in Explore; and 
  • Facebook Advert.
How to create an app like Instagram?

The following steps can help you build an Instagram-like social media app:

  1. Create a concept of your future app taking into account the experience and functionality of both Instagram and the available Instagram-like alternatives;
  2. Arrange a wide promotional campaign of your project in social media to see the reaction of the potential user audience;
  3. Make a list of features you would like to have in your Instagram-like application;
  4. Create a prototype or an MVP to make absolutely sure that your concept is viable;
  5. Apply as many monetization strategies to your business model as you can to diversify your income;
  6. Calculate and finalize everything relevant to your project and begin the development; and
  7. Release your app similar to Instagram and start making big money.

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