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Instagram Pulled the Plug on the App That Lets You ‘Be’ Other Users

Users of Being can no longer see into other people’s personal feeds.

It appears that Instagram pulled the cord on Being, the app that allowed users to Rear Window their way into celebrities' normally semi-private Instagram feeds. The app was previously featured on Apple's featured apps page, but now it's completely gone.

UPDATE: Instagram has pulled our API access. Thank you all for making us a Top 30 social app in ONE week. Hang tight, we will be live again.

Being for iPhoneFebruary 26, 2016

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Adam Mashaal, the creator of the app, told me that Instagram revoked API access as of 8 PM EST on Thursday. To prevent potential downloaders from downloading an essentially useless app, he pulled it from the App Store.

The app pulled following lists for users that your Instagram had access to—this includes all public accounts and all private accounts you're allowed to follow. The app then collates all of those followed users' posts, giving you a feed that closely resembles what that person sees when they open their own Instagram app. Bam. You're "being" that person.

The thing about Being is that it treads a very fine line between creepy and enlightening. While following lists on public accounts are public, you're probably not used to the idea of tailoring your following lists knowing that, say, a potential employer or your mom might be spying on your feed. What you post and share is public, but who or what you think is follow-worthy—wingnuts, pornstars, dumb meme aggregators and everything in between—is usually not so easily surfaced for other users.

Being allows you to learn, as Mashaal says, "about their tastes and interests in a way that isn't necessarily represented in what they're posting." Unfortunately for him, Instagram likely saw it as a privacy violation per their Platform Policy, which requires that apps:

"Comply with all applicable laws or regulations. Don't violate any rights of any person, including but not limited to intellectual property rights, rights of privacy, or rights of personality. Don't expose Instagram or people who use Instagram to harm or legal liability."

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Instagram declined to comment, saying that it doesn't discuss individual apps. Mashaal, meanwhile, said it felt like he was blindsided.

"As a developer on that platform, we expected some courtesy from them that they could send me an email before they revoked access," he said. "That would be more respectable, but the way they went about doing this felt like a slap to the face to the entire independent developer community."

Mashaal told me that the app had seen 40,000 users since its launch last week, with 11,000 downloads in the last day. These numbers are big enough to catch Instagram's eye, and it smacks of the same unfriendliness that marked Twitter's battle with its own third party developers over access to its API.

In a sense, all of Twitter's third party clients were there to fill feature gaps on its own native app. Before Tweetdeck was acquired by Twitter, it gave users an accessible multi-pane view of all their timelines—a feature that's still missing from the native Twitter app. Being, Mashaal said, was billed to complement Instagram's own set of features, and was already generating tens of thousands of likes and follows.

While the app generated newfound interest in Instagram by peeking on your friends and seeing that celebrities are pretty much just like us, it's likely that Instagram pulled the plug to avoid potential privacy-related drama. So for now, the shades are all closed.