A few days ago we reported the widespread irritation at Meta's changes to the Instagram app. The app designed primarily for you to see what people you follow are sharing has become an app that makes it quite hard to see what people you follow are sharing. It's a bit buying a Ford and having the dealer fit square wheels when you're not looking.
But Instagram's owner Meta, formerly Facebook, hadn't reckoned on the wrath of the Kardashians – so when the famous social media celebs said that Instagram was becoming rubbish, Meta quickly backpedalled.
So it's official: Meta isn't going to mess up Instagram until this particular PR storm blows over, at which point it's going to mess up Instagram. I'm paraphrasing, but that's the gist of it. As Gizmodo brilliantly put it: Instagram will pause updates until all the yelling stops.
Instagram is safe... for now
Speaking to Gizmodo, a Meta spokesperson said that Meta would now pause the rollout of the deeply unpopular TikTok-style interface – but as Mark Zuckerberg said just a day before, Meta's plan is still to fill more than 30% of your feed with content you didn't ask for by next year. So this is a pause, not a retreat.
“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,” the spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email. The key word there is "temporarily".
The problem with Instagram is the same problem Facebook has: in order to make the money it wants to make, it can't simply be an app that shows you what you want to see. And that means the product is always tilted towards what's good for Meta, not what's good for you. The writer Ed Zitron puts it very well in his latest Substack: "Instagram – probably the smartest acquisition in Meta’s history – has lost its way because it is no longer about your friends or those you care about."
To me, the current direction of Instagram is the same as we've seen with Facebook: the focus of the core product has changed. Instagram isn't aping TikTok because we're asking it to; it's doing it because Meta wants to destroy TikTok. And if that means destroying the very thing most of us signed up to Instagram for – to see photos of our friends' cats and the odd celeb – then that's what it'll do.
Your friends' and follows' posts are the red balloon to lure you into the storm drain. We all float in sponsored content down here.