This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
A few years back I decided to leave Facebook and move on to Instagram as my preferred social network. As it turns out, you can’t escape Facebook’s grasp that easily, and neither could Instagram itself, as it was bought by Zuckerberg’s network in 2012.
The reason I used to prefer Instagram is that unlike Facebook, it’s not overcrowded with strangers which it pushes you to connect with, just because you may have a friend of a friend in common. Plus, the app itself was nowhere near as bloated as Facebook and its mandatory companion Messenger app. It was just photos and some text, with only people around my age who share my interests. It has simple messaging too, and not as a separate app. Nice! But…
Instagram is becoming less about photo sharing and more about Reels and shopping
Of course, in recent years it became apparent that Facebook won’t just let Instagram be Instagram, but will start pushing its own “values” on it and bloating it with a marketplace and more aggressive sponsored content. All to encourage brands to pay for promotions and you to buy things via their promoted posts.
But most notably, last year Instagram got a TikTok competitor Reels feature, which Facebook now wants to push so hard on Instagram users that the “Reels” button recently replaced the “Feed post” button at the center of the app’s navigation bar. Just so users would get tricked into clicking it when they want to post something, until eventually they figure out that changes were silently made.
Encouraging users to watch Reels and shop, promote posts and create their own shop has now seemingly become Instagram’s priority over the simple social aspect that once made it so great.
Until recently the two buttons highlighted here used to be ‘Feed post’ and ‘Notifications’. Makes perfect sense, right? Well, now they’re ‘Reels’ and ‘Shop’. Apparently sharing images and connecting with friends are no longer the things to do on Instagram.
We could argue that the Reels feature was inevitable in a time where short form video content is so popular, but the way it was pushed to prioritize Instagram’s original purpose wasn’t exactly a nice way to treat the users. And isn’t Instagram’s IGTV app already a TikTok competitor? We really need two of those?
Instagram “app privacy” is now as bad as Facebook Messenger
We recently took a look at the most popular messaging apps and ranked them by privacy. For that, we used Apple‘s new “app privacy” section in the App Store, meant to help users understand how much of their private data is being used by each app.Although Instagram wasn’t included in our list, as it’s far from the most popular app people use for messaging, Facebook Messenger was, and it’s about as bad as you’d expect. Facebook takes and links to you private data such as your location, financial info, search history, browsing history, contacts and much more.
And, of course, as Instagram became a Facebook-owned company in 2012, the Instagram app too has “evolved” to take as much private data from you as possible. Here’s Instagram’s “app privacy” section as it appears in the App Store:
In the beginning, Instagram was heavily funded by venture capitalists and investors, and relied on simple image-based advertising. It was far from the shopping-oriented privacy invader it has now become under Facebook.
Where do we go from here?
What does the future of Instagram entail? Well, Facebook is trying to turn Instagram into a TikTok competitor really hard, but if we look at the top free apps in the App Store, TikTok is always near or within the top 10, while Instagram is far below. So this isn’t working out so far, even with Facebook forcing Reels on Instagram users by making “Reels” the new main button in the navigation bar.
Continuing down this road may attract a small minority of younger people who wish to avoid TikTok, while repelling Instagram’s current users like me. Overall, Instagram could gradually lose its identity and core user base. Pushing the shopping angle even harder may also have a negative impact on Instagram’s core audience, even if it attracts a few shoppers here and there. Let’s face it, none of us go to Instagram to shop for shoes.
Quick story time.
I used to work for a giant music distribution service which I won’t name, that tried to do too much. While its parent company was failing financially, it pushed the service to launch streaming and organize events, which wasn’t its expertise. In the end, the parent company went bankrupt, and the music distribution service returned to the basics – the things it was best at and nothing more. And thanks to that move, it survived financially, even if barely. Now Instagram is going down a similar path of being horribly mismanaged to do more than it should, akin to Facebook. And while it may work for Facebook to be a jack of all trades, only time will show how this will go for Instagram. But hopefully, it will return to the basics too, or at least ease up on the new features and make photo sharing the main one again.
What’s your favorite social media app and how did it win you over? If it’s Instagram, how do you feel about its recent changes?