Instagram is undoubtedly my most used application. With over 400m users worldwide, 60% of whom use their account daily, it is the second most engaged network in the world behind Facebook.
Fun fact, Facebook owns Instagram, sigh.
Instagrams rise to prominence was as rapid as its sale. After its formation in 2010, the rights were sold to Facebook in 2012 for $1 Billion.
Yes, you read that correctly. But why Instagram? What did Facebook see in the application that made them pounce so convincingly?
Instagram gave its users a more expressive and personalised way to be social that its social media predecessors did not. Users could create a visually enticing depiction of their life’s highlights. Whether it was something as routine as their daily coffee or as special as a holiday to Europe (my feed is currently clogged with beach photos) Instagram encouraged you to share everything to your network. Additionally, Instagram opened up an avenue for people to express themselves artistically, turning any photo into something original and creative.
Nevertheless, the one aspect of Instagram that people, myself included, found most appealing was the simplicity. My mother, who is notoriously poor with technology (she will read this, so sorry Mum), is a frequent and savvy Instagram user. So are her siblings, and her friends. The app dispels the notion that baby boomers can't use technology, because with instagram, anyone can.
So why write this piece? To laud Instagram?
This piece is centred more on concern than admiration, as the latest Instagram updates have completely diluted the very essence of the application, and what has made it such a smashing hit.
Recently, Instagram changed its algorithm to filter your feed. Once you could see all of your followers posts in chronological order. Now they are only brought to your attention if Instagram perceives they're the posts you want to see. It's no longer as personal, and inherently requires a greater amount of searching to get where you would like. The appeal of Instagram was that it gave you the power to dictate the distribution and intake of images you wanted to share and see, the power is slightly now out of yours hands.
However, as it would be, earlier this week we saw a rapid change in the layout that this author sees as a desperate ploy to rival competition, and not aid their users in any way. The platform now offers users a story mode at the top of the screen where people can post photos throughout their day on a cloud and have them disappear.
Now, I understand that Instagram wants to crush Snapchat (which now has over 100 million users), but to think that this will make their app more revered shows a lack of critical thinking towards understanding their users. The app is now far more complex, the more features you apply to an application, the further each function fails to impact its users.
It has always been common for software developers to alter their application by drawing inspiration from their competitors’ ideas, but the latest update goes against the values of instagram. Instagram’s ability to turn any photo into a visual masterpiece is its defining feature. However this new update seems to run counter to said feature. Posting any photo, without incorporating any creative input, that the user's followers can't even “like” is a dangerous move for Instagram’s teenage demographic. Frankly, teen users place a lot of value on the amount of traction their uploads receive through “likes”, as it is a barometer for them to measure their place amongst their social circles. If photos cannot be liked, then for these teens who crave the gratification that we all do when trying to discover ourselves in our early years, their desire to use such a feature is invariably low.
Then why use Snapchat? There are a different set of expectations in terms of response and traction from their peers when using Snapchat. The application does not have features to measure one's reach socially, rather, it gives it users the ability to give a more literal, day to day depiction of their lives, interests and hobbies. 60% of snapchat users are between 13-24; Let's say for contrast, they take kindly to the Instagram update, with so much social networking and Snapchat experience, using the new feature will be easy.
What about those who don't use Snapchat? The older demographic?
Last night I asked Mum, “what do you think of the new Instagram update?”, her response was what I expected, “I don't know what it is”. Mum, don't worry this isn't a discredit to you, how can those who have no knowledge of the said application be expected to understand not only its functionality but purpose so quickly?
These people don't even use Snapchat, why would they use its features on Instagram?
I reiterate the point, that I understand Instagram’s reasoning for incorporating such features; the software application market is increasingly competitive. It’s only a matter of time until the next super application arises and proves greater challenges. Instagram want to get ahead, but I feel their updates that have drawn inspiration from their rivals will be taken in with a mixed reception. Johnson definitely had something to do with this. A common acknowledgement amongst software development is that simple sells, and if that idea is anything to go buy, Instagram in time may regret trying to give too much, when they receive very little.