A eulogy for photo maps, the best Instagram feature that no one else used


Rest in peace, photo maps.

This week marked the death of Instagram’s photo maps.

What are photo maps? Only the best Instagram feature that apparently no one used except for me.

The little location button on every user’s profile led to a map of the world featuring every geo-tagged photo. From other users’ photo maps, you could figure out which city people lived in, check out their random vacations from three years ago or even see which neighborhoods they frequented if you were feeling nosy and zoomed in. Not to mention you could monitor your own map and get a sense of satisfaction from posting a photo in a new city or on a new continent.

Image: screenshot/instagram

Photo maps on Instagram.

Instagram quietly started removing maps from users’ view of other people’s profiles a few months ago, and confirmed in September that the app would soon get rid of photo maps entirely.

The app notified some users in November that the day of reckoning for their own maps would be Dec. 2. An Instagram spokesman confirmed that date to Mashable last week, and maps disappeared for some users on Friday. Maps are still visible for other users, but we can be sure they won’t survive for long.

Image: screenshot/instagram

Notification to users of Instagram’s removal of photo maps.

So why is Instagram getting rid of photo maps? The company said in a statement that “This feature was not widely used, so we’ve decided to deprecate it to make room for new features and focus on other priorities."

We know what those priorities are: defeating Snapchat. The end of photo maps coincided with the introduction of Instagram Stories, followed by live video on Instagram and more and more features for what has increasingly become a Snapchat clone.

As for the claim that photo maps were not widely used, it’s hard to tell. Instagram declined to comment on how many users used their photo maps or what it considered its "other priorities" and "most-used features."

But even if photo maps weren’t widely used, as Instagram says, their demise is still sad. The app started as a location company in the vein of Foursquare. Maps served as a reminder of those humble beginnings. Plus, they were a feature that was truly unique to Instagram even if they didn’t help Facebook’s quest for world domination.

I looked at my photo map almost every day, if not every time I opened Instagram, out of habit. Before Instagram got rid of the ability to see other users’ maps earlier this year, I looked at maps for most people I stalked followed too.

My college roommate and I used one of our maps on Instagram to plan an entire post-grad trip to Europe. (Google Maps were annoying, and it was exciting to visualize the photos that would populate the map.)

Image: screenshot/instagram

I went to Europe it was very exciting.

And I wasn’t the only one:

i am so upset that photo maps on insta is gone. I love being able to look back & see a geographic representation of my mems wyd @instagram

— emily mears (@mlemears) December 3, 2016

Instagram has officially killed the photo maps as well as my happiness

— kristina (@romanholidaze) December 2, 2016

yes I AM taking it very personally that Instagram is taking away photo maps JUST as I’m about to travel the world

— ellen (@punkassnerd) December 1, 2016

So goodbye, my photo map. I’ll miss you. And I still haven’t posted an Instagram Story.