Kylie Jenner is the most popular person on Instagram with 365 million followers
I keep hearing about this on NPR and it’s worth talking about. Instagram has recently been testing changes to its algorithm, particularly by favoring reels – short videos that mimic TikTok’s format – and more heavily featuring ads and suggested content. Instagram is not staying in their lane and is instead going after that sweet Gen Z market share. This is annoying many users, particularly artists, and high profile users like Kylie Jenner have complained about it. What’s more is that users are going to more photo-centric platforms like old school Flickr and Tumblr and new alternatives including Glass. Axios has a quick writeup that breaks it down very well and there’s more at the source:
Photographers, designers and other creative types turned off by Instagram’s pivot to TikTok-like features are tentatively moving to alternative platforms.
Why it matters: Instagram has long been a digital gallery space for artists of all kinds, helping them find an audience, connect with other creatives and land paid gigs.
But the Meta-owned platform’s gradual evolution into an ad- and shopping-heavy app that favors short-form video and algorithmically selected content has left the future of digital art-sharing in flux.
The context: Instagram has been de-emphasizing still imagery for years. But more recent changes, such as a focus on shopping and a big increase in the amount of suggested content that appears in users’ feeds, has forced a reckoning.
Instagram became a worldwide phenomenon thanks to its focus on “visual storytelling,” writes photographer and tech journalist Om Malik. But, he says, it’s now “all about marketing and selling substandard products and mediocre services by influencers with less depth than a sheet of paper.”
Instagram head Adam Mosseri recently walked back some of the most controversial changes, though he signaled that the Instagram of yore will not be returning.
A handful of rival apps and platforms are reporting recent spikes in user activity.
They include relatively new upstarts, like Glass (for photographers of all kinds) and Grainery (for film photographers, specifically).
Even old favorites like Flickr — a pioneer in digital photography-sharing that owned the loyalty of serious photographers in the mid-2000s — are seeing a boost, and some creatives are turning back to Tumblr, another longtime artist haven. Still others are headed to VSCO, which got its start as a photo editing tool before pivoting into a sharing platform.
I used to use TikTok occasionally but have uninstalled it because it’s incredibly addictive. I also noticed that it was changing what I was interested in. I only use Instagram a few times a day and of course it’s not as immersive as TikTok, but it’s for photos and those don’t keep your attention as long. I have noticed more reels and suggested posts in my feed there so I just haven’t used it as much. The change in Instagram’s format shows what the apps strive for – to keep us glued to them to capitalize on our time and shape our interests as consumers. They don’t want to provide a service, they exist to make money. It’s what happens when companies favor growth above user experience, and it has such a chilling effect on individuals and on society. They try to get us hooked so that they can sell our time. Instagram surely did all kinds of calculations about the trade off in revenue for changing their business model. They rolled some of that back but they’ll keep pushing to favor cash over people.
As an aside I’m so grateful that Twitter remains the same. It will surely change eventually but it’s my favorite platform. Pinterest deserves credit for staying true to their userbase too.