It turns out that when it comes to social media companies, bullying works. Following a week of pretty much everyone telling Instagram to knock it off with the changes, the photo sharing app is hitting the brakes on some of its major changes. Or, at least, tapping the brakes.
It all started when Instagram started rolling out fullscreen videos and photos, prioritizing recommended content over followed accounts. It was a transparent play for TikTok’s territory, and IG leadership was pretty open about wanting a piece of that particular pie. But it turns out that Instagram users want Instagram to be Instagram — not a knock-off TikTok app. Criticism came fast and fierce, and after several attempts to explain the shifts, Instagram buckled.
“I’m glad we took a risk — if we’re not failing every once in a while, we’re not thinking big enough or bold enough,” Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said in an interview with Platformer. “But we definitely need to take a big step back and regroup. [When] we’ve learned a lot, then we come back with some sort of new idea or iteration. So we’re going to work through that.”
That came as a relief to Instagram users, who fell behind a “Make Instagram Instagram Again” rallying cry after Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian posted memes about the changes. That’d be sort of like Jean-Luc Picard and James Kirk criticizing new Enterprise protocol, and it was about that time Instagram probably figured it was time to rethink their strategy.
There’s nothing new about users whining about an app re-design. Generally speaking, companies are prepared for a few days of grumbling before people get used to the changes or at least accept the new normal. And in Instagram’s case, they say internal data shows that users do like more video.
But Instagram clearly did not expect the level of heat it got, and that was reflected not only in user complaints but also actual data. “For the new feed designs, people are frustrated and the usage data isn’t great,” Mosseri. “So there I think that we need to take a big step back, regroup, and figure out how we want to move forward.”
That said, Instagram probably will move forward with changes at some point. TikTok’s dominance was meteoric and shows no sign of slowing, and Meta finds itself in the unusual position of underdog — posting a rare revenue decline over the last quarter and reeling from Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature to the tune of $10 billion. It’s clear that the company is trying to go on the offensive and it believes that TikTok is the future. But right now, it’s not clear that’s a future Instagram’s users are interested in.