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Instagram Will Finally Let You Upload Photos Without the App

Instagram made some changes to its mobile website this week, and now its users no longer need to use the Instagram app to upload photos they want to share.

Now, Facebook-owned Instagram's 700 million users will be able to upload photos using the service's mobile website on a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. There are restrictions, though, including limited photo editing features, and the fact that the mobile website won't allow Instagram users to upload videos, add photo filters, or send direct messages to followers. Users will also still need the app to create collections of photos and videos with the popular Instagram Stories feature.

Before the recent updates, though, Instagram's mobile site mostly just allowed users to view their photo feed along with any notifications. The updated mobile site's interface now looks very similar to the popular Instagram app. And, mobile website users are now encouraged to post photos, either by taking a new photo or by allowing the website to access their phone's photo library or iCloud drive (for iOS device users).

Users spotted the updates to the mobile site over the weekend, and TechCrunch reported on the changes on Monday, noting that Instagram began testing sharing from the mobile website in March. The company also told TechCrunch that the changes to the mobile site are meant to make the service more accessible for users "no matter what device or network they are on."

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That strategy could help Instagram appeal even more to users in parts of the world that lack high-speed connections or phones that don't have enough storage space to download the company's app. An increasingly global footprint is important to Instagram's growth strategy, as the company's user growth has skyrocketed recently—climbing from 500 million monthly users to 700 million since June 2016—with roughly 80% of its users living outside of the U.S.

Keeping up such a rapid pace of growth is also important to Instagram, and its parent company, amid an intense rivalry with the popular photo- and video-messaging app Snapchat. Facebook and Instagram have more or less copied various popular Snapchat features, including Stories, as part of an ongoing effort to woo millennial users.

Meanwhile, Snapchat has also been busy adding new features. The ephemeral messaging app on Tuesday unveiled a new set of creative tools for its 375 million monthly users, including unlimited viewing time for messages and a "magic eraser" that lets users remove objects from pictures. Snapchat's updates also include the ability for users to play videos on a loop, which is similar to Instagram's own Boomerang feature.

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