App that lets you anonymously shame Instagram users gets the axe—after one day

Instagram was none too pleased with this creative exercise in selfie-shaming. 


Rebecca Hiscott


Posted on Jun 14, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 3:27 am CDT

Last week, Pic Nix was the toast of the Web. Tech outlets spent a few glorious moments fawning over the robot-powered service that would let you anonymously call out your friends for posting too many duckface selfies on Instagram.

But Instagram was none too pleased with this creative exercise in selfie-shaming, and now, the app has been nixed.

“We thought it was a cool idea to help people anonymously tell their friends to stop posting clichéd photos, but Instagram didn’t think so,” reads a terse post on Pic Nix’s website. “Even though they shut down our account, we’re not done making cool things.”

Pic Nix is just the latest app to feel Instagram’s wrath. The photo-sharing network has a history of shutting down third-party apps that find loopholes in its relatively restrictive API—and Pic Nix’s strategy happened to be a doozy.

pix nix

Pic Nix was created to let Instagram users shame their friends for sharing any number of tired, clichéd posts: #TBTs, sunsets, skyline shots, the dreaded selfie. “Short of unfollowing the guilty parties, there hasn’t been a way to subtly hint that they’re overdoing it,” a rep for the ad agency that built the app told CBS Philadelphia.

But because Instagram’s API doesn’t allow third-party applications to publish photos to the app, Pic Nix had to find a creative way to slip its anonymous missives past the censors. That’s where “Silent B.O.B.” came in.

Users would build an anonymous post directly on the Pic Nix website, matching up a scathing critique of their friend’s latest gym selfie with a corresponding graphic, chosen from a pre-loaded list of “offenses” (an excess of images of cats, food, and Starbucks beverages, for instance). Once the post was submitted through Pic Nix’s website, it would be sent through a custom app to an Arduino-powered XY-plotter nicknamed Silent B.O.B., which would then use a stylus to type out the missive on an iPhone. The robot would post the image, along with an @ mention directed at the target—ensuring that the post would show up in their notifications—in less than two minutes.

The anonymous critique would be sent from the @PicNixer Instagram account, which Instagram has since shut down.

Take a look at how it was done:

Pic Nix – How It Works from a&g on Vimeo.

Instagram was likely just protecting its bottom line when it shut down Pic Nix, but the world is probably better off without an extra layer of maliciousness on social media. As PSFK put it, “Pic Nix truly is a Rube Goldberg machine for the passive-aggressive,” and we can’t see how that’s a good thing.

Image via Pic Nix

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*First Published: Jun 14, 2014, 11:02 am CDT