The head of Instagram on Tuesday said the platform’s latest update is just a “test,” following a slew of complaints from users, including Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, who have taken issue with a recent redesign.
“If you’re seeing a new, full-screen version of a feed or you’re hearing about it, know that this is a test,” Adam Mosseri said in a video addressing the concerns about the platform’s changes. “It’s a test to a few percentage of people out there, and the idea is that a more full-screen experience, not only for video but for photos, might be a bit more fun and engaging experience. But I also want to be clear, it’s not yet good.”
I posted the video one day after Jenner and Kardashian re-shared a post circulating on the platform that read, “Make Instagram Instagram again.”
“Stop trying to be TikTok,” the post, originally shared by photographer @illumitati, read. “I just want to see cute pictures of my friends. Sincerely everyone.” It’s amassed more than 1.7 million likes as of Tuesday.
The sentiment is shared by a growing chorus of content creators, who take issue with the increased size of photos and videos, which have the intended effect of making Instagram a “full-screen” experience, like TikTok. Some have even threatened to leave the app over the change.
Mosseri said the platform will always support pictures, but acknowledged it is now leaning into showing users more video, including its TikTok-style videos called Reels.
The backlash comes as Meta faces considerable headwinds as a company, with Facebook’s recent redesign pointing at efforts to take on TikTok and revitalize its advertising business.
So far, this latest update has been considered a flop by many users, who say they’re frustrated with the amount of video they’re seeing on an app that traditionally prioritized photos. Additionally, many are annoyed with seeing accounts they don’t follow recommended in their feeds, while accounts they follow and enjoy no longer make it onto their homepage.
When Jenner and Kardashian posted about the update Monday, Instagram garnered even more attention, especially given that Jenner’s endorsement or lack thereof has been detrimental to social media platforms in the past. In February 2018, Jenner tweeted that she was no longer using Snapchat after a redesign. Snap’s shares fell 7% after the tweet, losing the company more than $1 billion in market capital.
In his statement, Mosseri said Instagram knows the update needs to improve before it rolls out to the platform’s larger user base.
I have addressed concerns that the app is moving away from photos, saying that photos are a part of Instagram’s heritage and will continue to be supported.
But Instagram users are sharing and consuming more video on the platform than ever before, according to Mosseri.
“I have to be honest, I do believe more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time,” he said. “We see this even if we change nothing.”
I have to be honest, I do believe more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time.
Adam Mosseri, head of instagram
This is not the first time users have panned an Instagram redesign. In December 2018, the company changed its vertical scrolling homepage to a horizontal “tap-to-advance” format. The backlash was intense, and the feed was later changed back to its original vertical format. At the time, Mosseri also said that the redesign was a test.
“This was supposed to be a very small test but we went broader than we anticipated,” he tweeted.
Facebook, which is also owned by Meta, has also shifted to be more TikTok-like. Earlier this month, Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, said users would begin seeing an overhauled look when they open the mobile app. Users will see more looping video in their feed, but they can also select what kind of feed they see. Their options include a main feed, a feed with friends’ posts only and a feed focused on groups.
TikTok became the most-downloaded app of 2021, according to Cloudflare, a web security and performance company. The video platform surpassed three platforms owned by Meta.
TikTok was also the most-downloaded app in the first quarter of 2022, according to a report from analytics firm Sensor Tower.
The backlash to Instagram’s latest update also adds to the broader discontent that some users have expressed regarding the platform’s moderation practices.
What Instagram wants from creators is at odds with what creators are asking for from Instagram.
For example, on May 10, Instagram held a Reels promotional event and advised creators, including meme creators and comedy personalities, to make lifestyle content like beauty tutorials, recipes and room tours. But many creators take issue with the platform’s suggestions as to what they post.
On Saturday, a group of New York meme creators protested the app outside the New York offices of Meta, which owns Instagram. They created a list of demands regarding transparency around moderation practices.
“Instagram is something people need to survive,” the creators wrote in their demands list. “This private entity has become the public sphere, and Meta should not control our voices.”
“We demand you stop censoring vital information because the content is political in nature,” one demand said.
More than half a dozen creators spoke at Saturday’s protest, including Ana, 24, whose Instagram handle is neoliberal hell. She wanted to be referred to by her from her first name from her only from her or her username from her out of concern for her privacy from her.
“I don’t think it’s fair to suppress and censor voices that stray from Meta’s sterile version of their online hell app,” Ana said during her speech. “A lot of people asked me, ‘If you hate Instagram so much, why don’t you get off and use another app?’ Well as of now there really isn’t an alternative for what I do and what so many of us do.”
A spokesperson for Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the meme creators’ concerns and Saturday’s protest.
Mosseri emphasized in his video message that changes are inevitable and necessary for the platform.
“We’re also going to need to evolve,” he said, “because the world is changing quickly and we’re going to have to change along with it.”
Still, Mosseri’s video message Tuesday has continued to prompt questions about the platform’s future, including from other celebrities on social media.
Model Chrissy Teigen answered to Mosseri’s video on Twitter, writing, “we don’t wanna make videos Adam lol.”
“I guess for me it’s not just that I suck at making videos,” she added in a second reply to the Instagram exec. “It’s that I don’t see my actual friend’s posts and they don’t see mine, and I see the same people over and over and over then the feed goes ‘you’re all caught up!'”
Their back and forth ended when Teigen wrote: “Honestly I do know it’s a lot more complicated than all these opinions from people not in tech (me) but I guess we just loved it’s innocent simplicity before! picture. Like. Picture. Like. Maybe a button that asks what we prefer so we can set!”
Another person on Twitter asked Mosseri, “Why do you never listen to your users?”
I have replied: “Believe it or not we try. We spend a ton of time trying to understand what people prefer based on how to use Instagram and what they say about the app. Things can get tricky when those two are in tension.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism