For the past few years, social networks have gone through a transition. As these platforms continue to become the center of various sectors such as marketing and media, their respective owners have tried to turn them into a business paradise. These moves, gradually, while bolstering the ‘network’ part of the equation, the ‘social’ part is usually largely overlooked.
In the midst of all of this, however, Instagram had consistently managed to somehow retain its original ethos despite adding a plethora of new, modern features. It was undoubtedly the only social platform I personally enjoyed spending hours on. By now, you probably have noticed the presence of past tense verbs like ‘was’ and ‘had’. That’s because Instagram is changing at a dramatic pace. No, I’m not talking about “Stories” which was, in my opinion, a welcome addition. Or the algorithmic feed which I’ve learned to live with.
I’m here to discuss the updates Instagram has introduced in the last few weeks. For starters, the Facebook-owned company has injected “Stories” in your timeline. And it’s not the familiar row of your friend’s avatars either. Instead, these are twice the sized preview tiles randomly interrupting the rest of the feed midway. Instagram needs to understand that I didn’t open a particular story because I didn’t want to, not because I missed it at the beginning. That’s not all. People can now archive and saves these stories as highlights in their profile defeating the entire purpose of publishing an ephemeral post in the first place.
Then there are the advertisements which, apparently, are different than sponsored posts. Apart from your timeline, Instagram has also been aggressively showing promotional content in between stories as well. All of this is understandable for a social network trying to build a profitable model, but it needs a more subtle and better approach in projecting them to the user. Since there are three ways Instagram can push advertisements, displaying them at the same frequency is, I think, decaying the rest of the user experience.
Most recently, Instagram brought a new section called “Recommended for you” in the feed. This lives along with the already available “Suggested for you” carousel which houses profiles Instagram thinks you might be interested in. “Recommended for you”, on the contrary, shows a bunch of random full-fledged posts from strangers.
Now, this normally should have been fine as it’s something most social networks do for boosting user interaction. However, Instagram is a media-first platform and only shows roughly a single image or video at a time. On top of that, a relative algorithm between these ads and various sections seems to be entirely absent. Therefore, there’s a good possibility you’ll regularly come across all of these together and not view any posts from the people until after a few scrolls. The video I’ve embedded below showcases a similar situation I faced recently. Did I mention none of these is optional?
None of these posts are from the people I follow pic.twitter.com/1cQkHWicJw
— Shubham Agarwal (@phonesoldier) December 12, 2017
Even the Direct messaging feature has been turned into a chaos which is probably why Instagram will be soon launching a dedicated app. Considering the company won’t be backtracking on any of these changes, you currently have two options.
The Way Out?
The first is switching to Instagram’s web app which functions surprisingly well and comes with most of the features you’d need except for one — Direct messaging. Hence, if you can live without that (like me), installing the web app is a no-brainer especially if you’re on Android.
The other and a more viable alternative for the majority of users is to sideload any older APK file. As you can tell, this option is for Android users only. I went for this version as it skips all the annoying additions and retains essentials like stickers in stories. Moreover, I would also recommend disabling auto-update for Instagram in the Play Store.
In spite of all of this, however, Instagram’s numbers are soaring. As of September 2017, the social network had over 800 million monthly users and 300 million daily active users of the Stories feature. I can certainly accept the banal updates, as long as they’re not getting in the way of my experience with the app.
Running Out of Space
Unfortunately, unlike a couple of months ago, that’s not the case anymore. Instagram’s interface has become an alarming mess that needs to be revamped immediately if the company wants to accommodate all of these updates in a more organized manner. The “Explore” tab’s quality continues to degrade every day and is in dire need of a technological refresh as well. If Instagram keeps this up, it will soon reach the Facebook app’s level which overall actually has a better interface. And I personally don’t want that to happen as I’m running out of social networks to exit. Instagram, in last few months, has done a spectacular job at curbing abuse and harassment on its platform. Now, it just needs to focus on the aspects it missed during this spell.