Times are tense between Instagram and its users. Many are complaining about the new, updated version of the application, and a petition has even been launched, supported by stars like Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian. In response to the backlash, Instagram has just announced that it will be rolling back some of the changes — which users have considered far too similar to TikTok — in its update.
“Based on our findings and community feedback, we’re pausing the full-screen test on Instagram so we can explore other options, and we’re temporarily decreasing the number of recommendations you see in your feed so we can improve the quality of your experience,” said Instagram in a statement. “We recognise that changes to the app can be an adjustment, and while we believe that Instagram needs to evolve as the world changes, we want to take the time to make sure we get this right.”
So, what really happened?
What exactly is the new Instagram update that’s apparently like TikTok?
Since early May, Instagram has been tweaking its feed format to provide greater visibility to videos — even from accounts you aren’t following. For some users, posts have been expanded to display in a 9:16 ratio to fill up the screen, which means more effort is needed to scroll through the feed. Most users have also been encountering more recommended content and reels in between posts.
The updated version of the social network — apparently too similar to TikTok, but not as good — has not been to the liking of internet users, who are making their thoughts known loud and clear, sometimes with clever communications tactics and with the help of star influencers. Indeed, not one, but two sisters from the Kardashian/Jenner clan have shone the spotlight on the “Make Instagram, Instagram Again” petition, riffing on the famous political slogan “Make America Great Again,” notably used by Donald Trump during his first presidential campaign. Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian — respectively followed by 361 and 326 million users — both shared the petition in their Stories. This publicity boost helped set the topic trending on social networks, and helped the movement gain tens of thousands of signatures.
The petition has now gathered more than 190,000 signatures out of its 200,000 target, and this number continues to grow. The photographer Tati Bruening is at the origin of this movement, launching the petition on July 23 and posting it on her Instagram page. The cause has since been taken up by various stars.
The demands of the petition include, first and foremost, the return of the chronological timeline: “There’s no need to overcomplicate things, we just want to see when our friends post, the beauty of Instagram was that it was INSTAntaneous. Back in the dawn of the app we were all living in the moment, seeing our best moments in real time,” reads the petition page on Change.org.
The TikTok similarities — if not to say copies — are also called out: “STOP TRYING TO BE TIKTOK! We have TikTok for a reason, and let’s face it, the only reels uploaded are recycled TikToks and content that the world has already seen. What’s innovative and unique about old stale content? Nothing!” In its latest update, Instagram has recently unveiled many new features and formats similar to those already present on TikTok, such as a short-form video feed, automatic captions, and the ability to reply to a comment with a video.
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But it’s mostly the importance of photos that’s a key subject of concern. With Instagram’s push for more video content — TikTok-style — pictures have taken a back seat. Many users have criticised Instagram’s algorithm and called on the platform to increase the visibility of their content: “It feels wrong to switch the algorithm on creators that have made a living and contributed to the community, forcing them to change their entire content direction and lifestyle to serve a new algorithm.” The petition has been translated into five languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Indonesian.
Instagram’s boss responds
Faced with this outpouring of criticism, the head of Instagram responded with what else but a video, posted on his personal account. In it, Adam Mosseri acknowledges that the new full-screen feed “is not yet good.” He goes on to remind users that this is still only a test on the social network, and that its rollout is not yet fully implemented among all users. Nevertheless, this new way of experiencing Instagram will be more immersive and engaging, in his view.
He also addresses one of the major points of criticism: pictures. Mosseri was keen to point out that photos remain a key element of the application’s heritage, but, that said, he did stress that Meta’s social network will indeed be taking a more video-oriented turn: “I need to be honest. I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time. We see this even if we change nothing. We see this even if you just look at chronological feed. If you look at what people share on Instagram, that’s shifting more and more to videos over time. If you look at what people like and consume and view on Instagram, that’s also shifting more and more to video over time, even when we stop changing anything. So we’re going to have to lean into that shift while continuing to support photos,” explained Mosseri, speaking into the camera.
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The head of Instagram also spoke on the subject of recommended content in the news feed, reiterating its importance as “one of the most effective and important ways to help creators reach more people.” Recommended content amounts to posts from accounts that a user does not follow on the application, but which appear in the newsfeed as an invitation to discovery.
Well, the masses have spoken and now Instagram has relented — to some extent — with its latest decision to remove the full-screen mode for images and videos.
“I’m glad we took a risk — if we’re not failing every once in a while, we’re not thinking big enough or bold enough,” said Mosseri in an interview with Platformer.
An earlier version of this story was published via AFP Relaxnews
(Main and featured image: Nopparat Khokthong/ Shutterstock)