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A few years back, I decided to leave Facebook and move on to Instagram as my favorite social network. As it turns out, you can not escape Facebook’s grip so easily, nor Instagram itself when it was purchased by Zuckerberg’s network in 2012.
The reason I used to prefer Instagram is that unlike Facebook, it is not crowded with strangers that it pushes you to connect with just because you might have a friend of a friend in common. Plus, the app itself was nowhere near as inflated as Facebook and its mandatory companion Messenger app. It was just photos and some text where only people around my age share my interests. It also has simple messages and not as a separate app. On a! But…
Instagram is becoming less about photo sharing and more about wheels and shopping
Of course, in recent years, it became clear that Facebook is not just letting Instagram be Instagram, but will start pushing its own “values” on it and inflating it with a marketplace and more aggressively sponsored content. Everything to encourage brands to pay for promotions, and you to buy things through their promoted positions.
But especially, last year, Instagram got one TikTok competitor Reels feature that Facebook now wants to push so hard on Instagram users that the “Reels” button recently replaced the “Feed post” button in the middle of the app’s navigation bar. Just so that users will be tricked into clicking on it when they want to post something until they finally find out that changes were made silently.
Encouraging users to see wheels and shop, promote posts, and set up their own store has now apparently become Instagram’s priority over the simple social aspect that once did so well.
We could argue that the Reels feature was inevitable at a time when short-form video content is so popular, but the way it was pushed to prioritize Instagram’s original purpose was not exactly a good way to treat users.
Instagram’s “app privacy” is now as bad as Facebook Messenger
We looked at it most recently popular messaging apps and ranked them by privacy. For that we used Apple’s new “app confidentiality” section of the App Store was designed to help users understand how much of their private data is used by each app.
Although Instagram was not on our list as it is by far the most popular app people use for messaging, Facebook Messenger was it and it is about as bad as you would expect. Facebook takes and links to you private data such as your location, financial information, search history, browser history, contacts and more.
And of course, when Instagram became a Facebook-owned company in 2012, the Instagram app has also “evolved” to take as much private data from you as possible. Here is Instagram’s section on “app protection” as it appears in the App Store:
Initially, Instagram was heavily funded by venture capitalists and investors and relied on simple image-based advertising. It was far from the shopping-oriented privacy intruder it has now become under Facebook.
Where do we go from here?
What does the Instagram of the future entail? Well, Facebook is trying to make Instagram a TikTok competitor really hard, but if we look at the best free apps in the App Store, TikTok is always close to or within the top 10, while Instagram is far below. So this is not working so far, even with Facebook forcing the wheels to Instagram users by making “Wheels” the new main button in the navigation bar.
Continuing down this path may attract a small minority of younger people who want to avoid TikTok while repelling Instagram’s current users like me. Overall, Instagram can gradually lose its identity and its basic user base. Pushing the shopping angle even harder can also have a negative impact on Instagram’s core audience, although it does attract a few customers here and there. Let’s face it, none of us go to Instagram to buy shoes.
Fast story time.
I used to work for a giant distribution service for music that I will not name who tried to do too much. While its parent company failed financially, it pushed the service to start streaming and organizing events, which was not its expertise. Eventually, the parent company went bankrupt, and the music distribution service returned to the basics – the things it was best for and nothing more. And thanks to this move, it survived financially, albeit barely. Now Instagram is going down in a similar way to being terribly poorly managed to do more than it should, just like Facebook. And while it may work for Facebook to be a jack of all trades, only time will tell how this will go for Instagram. But hopefully it also returns to the basics or at least eases the new features and makes photo sharing the most important thing again.
What is your favorite social media app and how did it win you over? If it’s Instagram, what do you think of its recent changes?