(Reuters) -A black and white, melancholy alternative to Instagram that asks users to post sad pictures of themselves may launch in Russia this week, its creators said, to express sadness at the loss of popular services such as the U.S. photo sharing platform.
Russia restricted access to Instagram from March 14 and subsequently found its owner Meta Platforms Inc guilty of “extremist activities”. Moscow is battling with Big Tech to control information flows after it sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Instagram said the decision to block it would affect 80 million users in Russia. Although people can still sometimes access the photo-sharing platform using a Virtual Private Network, domestic alternatives have started appearing, the latest being ‘Grustnogram’, or ‘Sadgram’ in English.
What began as a joke among friends quickly became something that could work, one of Grustnogram’s creators Ivan Semkin told Reuters on Wednesday.
“We tried to draw a concept, it took a day or two, we tried to make it look good and we realised it came out very well, and it was a seriously good thing that we could show to others.”
Semkin said he was now hoping the government would support their project.
BROKEN HEART ‘LIKE’
“Post sad pictures of yourself, show this to your sad friends, be sad together,” a message on the platform’s website read.
An image of the app’s planned user interface showed a woman in a fur coat standing in front of St Basil’s Cathedral on Moscow’s Red Square. The search bar tells users to search for sad compatriots.
Instead of Instagram’s heart-shaped ‘like’ button, Grustnogram offers a broken heart and the option to ‘be sad’.
“We are very sad that many high quality and popular services are stopping their work in Russia for various reasons,” Afisha Daily quoted Alexander Tokarev, another of the service’s creators as saying. “We created Grustnogram to grieve about this together and support each other.”
Tokarev said four people, including two freelance programmers, were behind the project, and said he expected the application to appear for Android devices by the end of the week, and later on the App Store.
Rossgram, an imitation of Instagram in name, design and colour scheme, was set to launch this week, but its founders only succeeded in publishing a video of a prototype hours after the scheduled launch time.
(Reporting by ReutersEditing by Alexandra Hudson)