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iPhone photo tinting app Instagram has bagged 27 million users and will release an Android app "very soon", CEO-founder Kevin Systrom said at SXSW.

The proclamation comes a week after rumours emerged that the company's 17-month-old vignette filter was on the verge of pulling in $40m in venture funding and had been valued at $500m.

The new Android app is "in some ways […] better than our iOS app. It's crazy" Systrom told the SXSW audience.

Instagram specialises in ageing photos along the same lines of selling pre-faded jeans to hipsters who are too impatient to wear in a brand new pair. But the app cunningly weaves in social functionality - such as auto-tweeting, the ability to stream your photos and follow other users - that has given the product a reach beyond rivals that offer simple processing effects. It's free too.

The software been a runaway success on iOS, hitting a million users less than three months after it was launched in October 2010. At the end of 2011, Instagram was named as the App of the Year and went from 14m users in December to the 27m, it announced today.

For comparison Twitter had 350m members in June 2011.

Instagram was founded by two Stanford grads Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger with CVs including time spent on Gmail, and degrees in computer science and human-computer interaction, and picking up $7m in investment after four months. Dealing with the question of how they will actually make money, Instagram says:

We plan to experiment with different models as we grow and learn what special value we can provide to the community to make their collective experience more engaging, exciting and useful.

The company has been hiring and has 9 employees, according to LinkedIn. ®

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