Hurricane Sandy was “probably the biggest event” for Instagram yet, CEO Kevin Systrom said Monday.
More than 800,000 photos were posted using the #sandy hashtag, he said at GigaOM’s RoadMap conference, far more than the second-placed hashtag related to an event—around 85,000 photos had a Super Bowl-related hashtag earlier this year.
At one point last Monday, as Sandy bore down on the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., Instagram users were posting 10 #sandy photos a second.
“Sandy was a really interesting event for us,” said Systrom. “People are taking their cell phones and capturing everything.”
Systrom alluded to the fact that there were likely many, many more photos taken as the storm took hold, with Instagram offering a glimpse at newsworthy events as they happen. He added that Instagram’s geolocation features and photo maps provided important information during the storm.
Sandy was an event that had a very visual impact on the physical landscape of the U.S. East Coast. In such incidents, images often tell the story much better than words can.
Systrom also offered some hints as to Instagram’s future at Monday’s event. He said his company is focused on “making meaning of all the data coming in, and improving the experience of curating.”
That means placing more emphasis on making sure Instagram can analyze a large number of photos quickly and figure out which ones are providing the most valuable information.
One example he gave, according to TechCrunch, is being able to tell you where you can find fuel at a New York gas station. That means being able to process both photos and text to give context and meaning to the more than 5 million images shared on Instagram every day.
Meanwhile, Systrom was asked about a New York Times report that Twitter is planning to introduce Instagram-style photo filters. He claimed he was not concerned: “Instagram is a community, not a filters app.”
If ever there were doubts that Instagram is more a community than anything else, the flood of Sandy photos certainly dispelled them.
Photo of Kevin Systrom by @om/Instagram