Social media platforms are always evolving, adding new features, and redesigning their user experience. These apps have become a primary source of entertainment and connection for millions of people, so the stakes are very high and the transitions are not always so smooth. Back in the 2000s, Facebook updates would frequently cause uproars before being quickly forgotten, so these situations are definitely very fluid, but there are certain updates that can cost apps their popularity, and recent moves out of Instagram have many observers wondering what its future role in users lives will look like.
Recently, Instagram tested a new screen experience where each post would be full screen and an emphasis would be placed on video. By default, this sort of made Instagram, an iconic social media platform in its own right, into something of a TikTok knockoff. Instagram itself has seen its own features ripped off by other social media platforms, but in this case it quickly became apparent to its users that the test update fundamentally changed the app at its core.
In its inception, Instagram carved out a niche for itself as a place for social media updates that revolved around photos. Instagram popularized a lot of the photo filters we take for granted, and has done a good job evolving but always retaining that as its core: a place for social media photo updates. It incorporated videos and pioneered the stories feature, but it still supported still photography as its default post type. By shifting to a video-first format, Instagram would be fundamentally changing its identity… and not in a way many of its users seem to want the app’s identity to change. TikTok already exists for short video content, Youtube already exists for longer video content, Twitter is text-first and Instagram is image-first. Changing that formula simply throws off the balance. If Instagram doesn’t course-correct and default back to being a powerful showcase for the still image, then it should be prepared to have a tumultuous road ahead of it.
I’m Evan Rook.