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‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Why does Instagram keep changing its features?

Instagram has announced that it’s revoking the recent changes it made to the app.

Caitlin Hall

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Instagram, owned by Facebook (now Meta), began exclusively as a photo-sharing app in 2010. In recent years, online trends have appeared to shift towards short-form video content, with TikTok coming out on top as one of the fastest growing social media platforms. In an attempt to compete with this media giant from China, Instagram added their own version of short-form videos in 2020, known as ‘Reels’.


Many Instagram users were frustrated with the changes…if they’d wanted a platform for short videos from accounts they don’t follow, they’d have gone to TikTok. Instagram’s appeal is its ability for users to see their friends’ posts and stories in their feeds. The platform received a backlash a few years back for changing the home page from chronological posts to an algorithm, based on who the user supposedly interacts with the most. People subsequently found that the post their best friend uploaded an hour ago had become lost beneath three-week-old marketing posts from brands. Despite this, Instagram stuck to their guns and kept the algorithm.


Another change to the app was the addition of ‘Instagram Shopping’: a separate tab solely to promote ecommerce and advertise products, which also received negative feedback from users, who believed it to be nothing more than a cash grabbing move from the platform.

Though Instagram has seemingly ignored critics of its algorithm during the last few years—forcing users to just get used to it—its recent changes look to have pushed users too far. The introduction of full-screen videos and photos, and its increase in ‘recommended posts’ (a pronounced imitation of TikTok’s ‘For You Page’) has not gone down well. This time, the platform seems to have listened; Head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, has announced that these changes will be reversed. The news comes as parent company Meta declared their first-ever decline in revenue in their second-quarter results.


One thing that might have prompted Instagram to back-pedal is the reaction of some of the app’s most followed influencers, e.g. Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian. Both celebrities shared a post pleading the decision-makers to: ‘Make Instagram Instagram again. (Stop trying to be TikTok, I just want to see cute photos of my friends.) Sincerely, everyone.’ With 689 million combined followers, it’s no wonder the powers-that-be at Instagram took their concerns on board.


By attempting to update their platform and stay on top of current trends, Instagram is alienating the users that liked the app for what it was—a way to keep up with their friends. Instagram claims that the reason they prioritised Reels in their updates is because these represent the best performing content across the platform. Is this because Reels is the type of content Instagram’s algorithm pushes the most, however? Thus, propelling Instagram’s own chicken-and-egg paradox?


Instagram isn’t the only platform trying to compete with TikTok. Facebook has its Videos tab and links to Instagram Reels; YouTube has added ‘YouTube Shorts’; and even Snapchat has its own ‘recommended video’ section.


At least Instagram has finally listened to its users and has, this time, decided to put its customers’ desires at the forefront of the app. However, it’s clear that Meta see TikTok as a growing threat, which is why it’s constantly positioning itself as a competitor in the short-form video market. As TikTok continues to thrive, however, Meta will likely keep pushing such changes to its reluctant audience until Instagram looks nothing like its former self.

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