Living / Technology

Will Instagram return to its former, photo-only glory? Probably not

instagram changes

So, I don’t know about you, but the changes happening over on Instagram are not sitting well with my mindless content consumption way of life. What was once the Holy Grail of photo sharing apps has been soiled by suggested posts, overwhelming video content, reels, advertisements and content remixes. It’s almost as if Instagram is *shock horror* trying to imitate another, very popular video sharing app named TikTok.

What are the changes to Instagram?

Allow me to set the scene, for those already given up on the app or the few unacquainted with Instagram. It’s somewhere between 8pm and 10pm. Something is on the TV screen in front of you, but the focus is scrolling on your phone. There’s an artfully-framed photo of someone’s living room, followed by a shot of the Amalfi coast, then an advertisement. Then, about seven videos in a row, four suggested posts and a survey asking if you have “recently seen an advertisement for the ANZ Bank.”

The worst part? A new full-screen layout they are road-testing to further imitate TikTok, wherein the borders of images are practically cut off due to gradient borders and captions which overlap imagery. It’s enough to make you temporarily switch to another app, but give it 10 minutes and you find yourself back on Instagram, the same situation greeting you.

Instagram boss Adam Mosseri has defended the recent changes and new “recommendations” feature, which inserts content from people users don’t follow into their feeds. And, to be honest, he just doesn’t seem to care that an overwhelming amount of his users are currently hating the app.

“I’m hearing a lot of concerns about photos, and how we’re shifting to video,” said Mosseri. “We’re going to continue to support photos, but I need to be honest: more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time. We’re going to have to lean into that shift while continuing to support photos.”

“Lean into that shift.” But Mosseri, we already have an app for that – TikTok. Also, YouTube, for those of us who enjoy the now old school means of consuming video content.

 

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A post shared by Adam Mosseri (@mosseri)

Mosseri went on to say the recommendations feature is to help users “discover” new things on the app, and did mention that this can be snoozed for 30 days at a time.

“The idea is to help you discover new and interesting things on Instagram that you might not even know exist,” he said. “You can snooze all recommendations for up to a month, but we’re going to try and get better at recommendations because we think it’s one of the best ways to help creators reach a new audience and grow their following."

It’s not just the video content that is an issue with Instagram changes as it stands. And perhaps we all need to stop winging and accept that apps change and develop as consumer engagement habits also change and develop. However, the other glaringly repugnant change to Instagram is the extremely algorithmic main feed leaving users to often miss the posts of those they willingly follow.

Instagram has claimed the “favourites” feature – by which users can favourite accounts they want to see the posts of and subsequently creates a feed of only these users – is the answer to solving this, however, who amongst us is going to sort through and favourite every single user they follow to ensure they see their posts, when they could simply be shown organically, from newest to oldest, in their feed? How we took 2014 for granted.

In response, celebrities have taken to sharing a post on their stories, saying “Make Instagram Instagram again,” So far, these have included the likes of Raven Smith, Alexa Chung and Instagram’s most-followed account, Kylie Jenner, who with the power of one tweet in 2018 pondering if anyone still used Snapchat saw $1.3USD billion wiped from its value and its shares drop by six per cent.

 

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A post shared by Raven Smith (@raven__smith)

But, hasn't Instagram made changes before?

As I write this, I have checked Instagram three times, aimlessly, almost as a reflex between paragraphs. What is most interesting is that Instagram has been evolving for a matter of years now, first with the algorithm changes, then the post ratio flexibility and the gradual dominance of videos. And we’re still here. Still saving posts of places to eat, brands to shop, interiors inspiration to remember when maybe one day we have saved enough for a home.

When the app introduced stories, many bemoaned it as trying to be Snapchat and rarely used the feature. Now, stories are the dominant means to consume content on the app, more frequently updated than feed posts. Will we reach the point with video content on Instagram where it is normalised? Or have they truly jumped the shark?

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Image: Instagram