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instaDM Brings Private Messaging to Instagram

instadm screen shotThere are a lot of amazing apps out there taking the world by storm, especially as mobile devices and tablets become more widespread. Even the hottest new apps, however, aren’t perfect and that’s where clever innovators can fill in the gaps with a great idea. Parse-powered instaDM is one such innovation.

When co-founders Cristian and Roman Castillo realized that the only way to communicate with other users in the mega-popular Instagram app was through public conversations, they decided to create a program that enabled private messaging. They clearly hit an area of need, experiencing 300,000 downloads in 10 days and growing to over 1.5 million users to date.

We sat down with Cristian to talk about the creation of the app and their transition to Parse.


Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company.

Our current company was born with instaDM. Our goal is to build mobile apps that are social in nature and are self sustainable in terms of operation and revenue. I'm the technical co-founder.

So tell us about instaDM; what is its function?

instaDM was born due the lack of private messaging in the Instagram ecosystem. We created a messaging platform where you can log in with your Instagram credentials, find the people you've met through Instagram, and chat.

Lately we've added some features that allow users to browse their Instagram streams, such as their “liked,” "feed," and "nearby" photos. We've also worked on beautiful profile pages with tight Instagram integration.

After you noticed the private messaging need in Instagram, how did instaDM grow from there?

We were early Instagram adopters and we found a lot of interesting people through the platform but, sadly, the only way to reach out to them was (and is) through public comments. When they launched the developer’s API we hacked a small website where you could exchange messages using your Instagram credentials. That was it.

How many overall downloads have you seen?

We've had over two million downloads of instaDM to date, and we're serving millions of push notifications a month.

You created the app and then transitioned to Parse later. How did you find your way here?

Push was the main reason why we developed a native application, and we chose our first provider for this, which wasn’t Parse, because we found an easy way to connect our framework with them.

After the first month of service, we had to pay over $4,000 on push notifications. We realized a new provider was needed and tried a bunch of others but they were either lacking speed, had low delivery rate, or were unaffordable at our volume.

After Parse released the REST API we made our move. When we switched to Parse, we found it to have everything we needed along with great customer support.

You mentioned that Push is one of the key features you're using; how is it featured in your app?

Every message sent through instaDM uses push to either notify the receiver or refresh their conversation, so basically for all the critical operation in our app.

Are you using any of Parse's other features (Social, Data, etc.)?

Not right now, but I'm intrigued by Cloud Code in particular. If we can do with servers what we did with Push, then it sounds very promising.

One final question; since switching to Parse, what would you say have been the key benefits?

Ease of integration, speed, high delivery rate and affordable pricing. The customer support is icing on the cake.


instaDM is currently available for download on both Android and iOS devices.