Instagram U-turns on TikTok style updates after user backlash

The photo-sharing app has addressed mounting concern from users including the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner

Instagram Reels first launched in August 2020 and has been described as the social media platform's rival for TikTok. Photo: Instagram
Powered by automated translation

Instagram will backtrack on several recent updates after thousands of users, including Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, criticised the photo-sharing app for trying to be too much like TikTok.

On Thursday, Instagram said it would temporarily decrease the number of suggested posts users saw in their feeds from accounts they don’t follow, a feature it has been testing, which has resulted in friction with the creators on the platform. The update meant that users were being offered new accounts over seeing content from the ones they already follow.

It also said it would roll back its testing of a new feed that showed photo and video posts as full screen, as opposed to its typical way of showing posts as a portion of the screen in a scrolling format.

Both updates make the platform more akin to the way TikTok works. The highly popular Chinese-owned video app shows its content in full-screen, most of which is recommended to users by its algorithm.

“We recognise that changes to the app can be an adjustment, and while we believe that Instagram needs to evolve as the world changes, we want to take the time to make sure we get this right,” Meta, Instagram’s parent company, said in a statement.

The announcement comes after a post went viral, saying: “Make Instagram Instagram again. Stop trying to be TikTok. I just want to see cute photos of my friends. Sincerely, everyone.”

It was this post that several high-profile content creators and celebrities shared.

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said the test version of the revamped app would be phased out over the coming weeks.

"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," he told The Verge. "But we definitely need to take a big step back and regroup. 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."

Earlier in the week, Mosseri challenged users’ calls that they wanted to see more content from their friends in their Instagram feeds.

“One thing I hear a lot is people asking to see more friend content in Feed. I'd love for there to be more friend content in feed, but all the growth in photos and videos from friends has been in stories and in DMs,” he said in a tweet.

“We will continue to show photos and videos from friends towards the top of Feed whenever we can, but the best way to keep up with friends seems to be with the other parts of Instagram.”

Meta’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has spoken publicly about how TikTok’s popularity has challenged his platforms Facebook and Instagram for people’s attention. He said that Reels and video content was the main thing driving engagement and growth on the platform.

Updated: July 29, 2022, 11:19 AM