Instagram is slowly changing to be more than just a place to share photos as it leans towards video and entertainment. Here’s what that means for you.
We all know and love Instagram as a photo-sharing app. It’s the place where your photos are neatly aligned in grids, which you can edit them to your chosen aesthetic. But the go-to app for posting and sharing photos may see some drastic changes in the near future if comments by the head of Instagram are anything to go by.
In a video posted on his Twitter and Instagram account last June 30, the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri said that the app is going to lean towards more being for entertainment and video. “There’s stiff competition and there’s more to do. We have to embrace that, and that means change,” he shared. Later in the video, he said that the main reason why people use Instagram is “to be entertained.” He specifically name-dropped TikTok and YouTube as their competitors. “Let’s be honest, there’s some really serious competition right now. TikTok is huge, YouTube is even bigger, and there are a lot of other upstarts as well.” If it wasn’t already clear that Instagram was going to change in a big way, he also said, “We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app.”
So, what exactly are the big changes coming to Instagram? Mosseri outlined a few of them and said that they are going to focus on four key areas: creators, video, shopping, and messaging. The first major change is with video. The app is testing full-screen videos on the platform. Currently, only IGTV can be full-screen, but this change means that every video, even the ones on your feed, can be made full screen. This is on top of the fact that Instagram recently introduced Reels last year, which users can make short-form videos with overlaid audio and augmented reality effects. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s a concept that is very similar to a TikTok video.
Next, changes to the algorithm are going to be made. You will soon see recommended video’s on your feed, even from accounts you do not follow. Right now, you sometimes may see recommended or suggested photos on your timeline in Suggested Posts. This change would now include videos to that. “We’re also going to be experimenting with how do we embrace video more broadly—full screen, immersive, entertaining, mobile-first video,” Mosseri said. “You’ll see us do a number of things, or experiment with a number of things in this space over the coming months.”
Instagram is also testing a feature called Exclusive Stories. First spotted by developer Alessandro Paluzzi, this feature will allow creators to post exclusive content to their IG stories that only their fans and subscribers can see. Exclusive Stories have a purple ring around them just like how Close Friends stories have a green ring around them. Users will most likely have to pay a subscription fee to access someone’s Exclusive Stories. If non-subscribers come across an Exclusive Story, they will be shown a message that says “only members” can see it. You also cannot screenshot Exclusive Stories either.
Instagram is also experimenting with NFTs as a feature called Collectibles was recently discovered. The feature shows digital collectibles appearing on a creator’s Instagram profile in a new tab for the possibility of purchasing them. These features aren’t far off from what Mosseri said in the past that they were “exploring” the idea of subscriptions and other avenues of revenue for influencers and creators to monetize the app.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU
Most of these changes have yet to be implemented on a wide scale. So, you may be wondering then how these changes affect you? Well, depending on how you use Instagram, you may see these as good or bad. If you are a content creator and influencer, these changes could mean that you have more opportunities and options to make content and build your brand. You could also have more ways to make money from your content on Instagram, whether it be through ads, using Exclusive Stories, or other means.
But if you’re a regular user, these changes may make the platform feel bloated and not what you originally signed up for. If you have an Instagram account, it’s either you like to see or post pictures. People went on Instagram because it is a photo-sharing app and used it for that purpose. If you wanted to watch videos, you would have gone to TikTok or YouTube. Depending on how they are implemented; these changes may make Instagram feel like it’s everything in one app or it ends up becoming too messy for users to get into.
But that’s the nature of a competitive industry. Instagram famously (or infamously) launched stories in 2016 as a response to Snapchat. The app has since expanded with Reels and a dedicated shopping hub. Meanwhile, TikTok just announced that users can post videos up to three minutes long. Twitter is testing its take on subscriptions called Super Follows, which works similarly to Exclusive Stories. They are also working on Ticketed Spaces; a paid version of their Spaces feature, which was done as a response to Clubhouse’s popularity in the past year. They also launched (and are closing) Fleets. YouTube, meanwhile, just launched Shorts, which is basically their take on TikTok.
There is nothing wrong with keeping up with the competition. But the problem lies when it ruins what made the app fun for people in the first place. Only time will tell how fundamentally the Instagram experience will change. But if these changes become permanent, you may be using the square photo-sharing app differently in the future.