The End Of Instagram Could Be Closer Than You Think

It would be an understatement to say that Instagram is braving a tumultuous phase right now. From playing catch-up with TikTok and innovating in sync with changing global social media behavior to staying true to its photo-sharing legacy, the company is making key changes at a breakneck pace. But things have apparently come to a boiling point over recent video-centric tweaks and a fundamental change to the feed design that shamelessly apes TikTok.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of Instagram users, especially those who have been loyal since its early days, aren't happy about it. Even the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner — social media moguls with a combined 682 million followers — aren't fans of the changes. The backlash was fierce enough that Instagram chief Adam Mosseri himself posted a video detailing the platform's vision moving ahead.

But instead of dousing the fire, Mosseri doubled down on the video-centric future of Instagram where Reels are the king while photos take a backseat. If anything, it confirmed that the end of Instagram as you know it is closer than you think. From taking inspiration from Snapchat Stories to the failed TikTok clone experiment that was IGTV, Instagram's obsession with videos has been relentless, but 2022 looks like the year it'll truly reinvent itself — for better or worse.

Why are Instagram users upset?

The spat of changes Instagram has announced in the past few weeks is staggering. The company is already testing a full-screen feed for both photos and videos that bears an uncanny resemblance to TikTok. According to Mosseri, the algorithmic feed is going to show more content from accounts you don't follow in hopes that you just might find it interesting, all in the name of discovery. As a consolation, Instagram is testing a feed that will let you watch content only from accounts you follow.

Such is the focus on videos that Instagram wants to turn every video under 15 minutes of length shared on the platform into a Reel. That Reel can now pop up in the feed of random strangers across the world, who can proceed to remix it and create their own reaction Reels. In the coming weeks, Instagram will even allow your public photos to get remixed by others for creating — you guessed it — Reels.

Mosseri reassures users that they can mark unwanted videos as uninteresting, but at the end of the day, the void that creates will be filled by other videos, which is not really a solution. Perhaps more importantly for its long-term outlook, the algorithmic changes also have Instagram's loyal content creators on edge. With frequent changes to how the feed works and which behaviors Instagram prioritizes, creators are having a hard time catching up with the changes, both user-facing and behind the walls. The frustration is real — in fact, there's already a petition titled "Make Instagram Instagram Again" that has garnered over 200,000 signatures, and a group of content creators organized what they called an "Instarrection" earlier this week outside Instagram's headquarters in New York City.

The desperation isn't bogus

Social media is experiencing a visible divide at the moment. People flock to TikTok for short fun videos. Instagram is the destination for catching up with friends. Twitter is for seeing news and raising hell with a few words. YouTube fills the demand for video watching. But TikTok is really eating into that video landscape, especially when it comes to courting younger users. The engagement figures prove it.

According to Sensor Tower data, TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide in the first quarter of 2022 — it was also the world's most downloaded app in 2022, dethroning the long reign of Meta platforms, according to AppTopia. In September 2021, TikTok's chief operating officer Vanessa Pappas confirmed in a video that the app now has 1 billion users. That is a staggering user base despite the fact that TikTok was banned in India, one of its biggest markets globally.

But it's not just the strength of active user figures that made TikTok a cause of concern for Instagram. According to an Insider Intelligence forecast, TikTok's ad revenue will surpass even that of YouTube in 2024. With a robust creator program that will dole out $1 billion in the coming years, TikTok ensures that creators stick to its platform. Instagram, on the other hand, is facing a crunch. Meta is burning billions on building its metaverse, while Apple's privacy tweaks are expected to wipe $10 billion from its revenue in 2022 alone.

It's a tricky road ahead

A social media platform has a symbiotic relationship with its users, and that means it needs to evolve with their content consumption behavior. Instagram knows that all too well. Mosseri also highlighted the same in his video, claiming that videos are driving a majority of engagement on the platform, be it in the feed, Stories, or DMs. It is, therefore, no surprise that Instagram naturally wants to prioritize videos.

But the biggest problem with Instagram is that it's not TikTok. Instagram still has the image of a platform with roots in photo-sharing, while TikTok is a video-first platform. Instagram might take over TikTok using all the money in Meta's coffers, but that won't happen without shedding its identity and estranging a large chunk of its user base.

It's interesting that Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom once pitched the purchase of to Meta bosses, but the proposal was declined. China's ByteDance bought it and turned it into the behemoth that is now TikTok. What Instagram needs right now is to perform a balancing act, one that is less aggressive in pushing a gazillion videos and instead focused on solving its inherent problems first. TikTok can't eat into Instagram's photo-sharing turf, but Instagram's bid to copy its video-sharing rival also needs to slow down or else risk losing it all.