Instagram snafu shows risk of relying on clone apps for Windows Phone

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The problem with Windows Phone apps – or lack thereof – is getting worse, with users now finding that third party apps don’t always work.

The developer of a Windows Phone app for viewing and uploading Instagram photos says that photos uploaded to Instagram via the app are being deleted. The Verge first reported on the issue.

It’s the latest headache for Windows Phone users, many of whom complain about the lack of popular apps.

One of the most popular apps at the moment, Instagram isn’t available on Windows Phone. And unlike other biggies, like Vine and Flipboard, the company hasn’t said that it plans to build an app for Windows Phone.

But it appears the company sure doesn’t want other people making me-too apps.

Instagram didn’t respond to a question about whether it is deleting the photos by design. It offered this statement: “We recently made an update to the systems that we use to fight spam to help prevent future attacks and increase security,” it said.

It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on here.

Instagram’s terms of use for its API clearly forbids an app like Instance. The terms of service say: “You shall not: Use Instagram APIs for any application that replicates or attempts to replace the essential user experience of Instagram.com or the Instagram iPhone App.” 

Instance most definitely replicates Instagram and doesn’t try to hide it. Instance’s description in the Windows Phone store reads like this: “Instance has all of the features of the paid version, only free! (With Ads). The only fully featured Instagram client on the market.”

Whether Instance complies with the rules or not is little consolation to Windows Phone users. So keen is the community for an Instagram app that in March, Nokia released an app called #2InstaWithLove, designed to encourage Instagram to build an official app. “Many of you have asked when Instagram will be coming to Windows Phone, and the #2InstaWithLove app was created as a way for you to have your voice heard,” according to the app description. It simply adds the #2InstaWithLove hashtag to photos and adds a Polaroid filter.

Instagram is just an example of the problem that the Windows Phone platform faces. Microsoft has tried to emphasize quality over quantity, saying that it doesn't need to match the Apple and Android stores in terms of numbers. But despite it's best efforts, it clearly can't attract all of the popular apps. Without them, the platform will continue to have trouble growing.

Even Microsoft's biggest partner, Nokia, agrees that killer apps are needed for Windows Phone to succeed. An executive recently said that Windows Phone could use an app like Halo, which allowed Microsoft to enter and eventually dominate the gaming console market. So far, a Windows Phone Halo seems to be elusive.

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