Offline mode should make the photography app more accessible in the developing world.
Instagram, like every social network, requires an internet connection to function. How else would you be able to interact with other photographers, unless you happen to be within shouting range? That's fine and dandy in places where internet coverage is near universal, but how can Instagram bring its own brand of retro-tinged imagery to parts of the world where net connections are flakey, inordinately expensive or both?
That's why parent company Facebook has announced Instagram's offline mode. While you'll still need occasional internet access to update your feed, much of the app's other functions can be done on the back of this initial pre-load. In other words, once you've downloaded your friends' latest snaps you'll be able to leave comments, like photos, save images and unfollow – and everything will be synced when you next reconnect. That should work well for the majority of the time, although you may find yourself accidentally plagiarising someone else's comments thanks to the time delay.
That kind of potential faux pas seems a small price to pay for greater access though. Facebook has already successfully managed to expand access across the main network through Facebook Lite – a streamlined version of the app designed or 2G connections. They're not the only ones thinking outside the box for access in the developing world: back in February, Google announced YouTube Go – an India exclusive app that allowed users to download videos for offline viewing.
Instagram is considerably smaller than both YouTube and Facebook – but by making it more accessible, the hope is that its growth can be kickstarted in parts of the world so far overlooked by app developers penchant for constant data checkins. For now offline mode is only available in the Android app, which makes sense given Android is comfortably the most popular OS in the developing world – although Facebook is actively exploring adding the functionality to the iOS version too.