Instagram CEO: Hurricane Sandy Was Biggest Cell-Phone Documented Event Ever [GigaOM RoadMap]


Kevin Systrom, Instagram CEO, talking to Om Malik at GigaOM RoadMap in San Francisco today.

SAN FRANCISCO, GIGAOM ROADMAP CONFERENCE — Hurricane Sandy was the largest event ever documented by cell phones, said Kevin Systrom, co-founder and CEO of the photosharing app Instagram.

Speaking at the GigaOM Roadmap conference, Systrom said there were nearly one million photos on Instagram with the #Sandy hastag, making it the largest event documented by ordinary people using their cellphones.

“Sandy was a really interesting event for us,” said Systrom, who grew up on the east coast. “Sandy was the single largest event captured on Instagram — and the largest event captured on cell phones ever.”

Systrom said the hurricane was “a really interesting moment in human history.” Using networked tools like Instagram, “You can see things unfold as they happen, then go back and see what happened.”

Sytrom likened Instagram to the Library of Congress — which collects every book and periodical published. Except Intagram is collecting photos published by users.

“It’s a record of history but taken by users,” said Systrom. “They are documenting it in realtime. It’s really a particaptory thing, not a consumption thing.”

Instagram is a photo-sharing service that makes it easy and fun to share photos from smartphones. It was a big hit on the iPhone 4, one of the first smartphones to feature a camera as good as most point-and-shoots. Instagram was bought by Facebook for about $1 billion, by far the largest sum ever paid for a startup app company.