Instagram Is Facing an Identity Crisis

Anupam Chugh

An exclusive media sharing platform has now turned into a bloated mess
Photo by Ante Hamersmit on Unsplash

Very few people knew about Instagram before 2012. Originally released as Burbn, a location-sharing app, the startup didn’t quite make the noise in the initial days.

It was only when the founders realized that photos were the most liked part of their infant app, that they rebranded it to Instagram.

Despite Instagram not getting a huge adoption in its early days, Zuckerberg perceived it as a threat.

No surprise that Facebook was quick to acquire the photo-sharing app in a deal reportedly worth $1 billion. Now eight years back, that was a lot of money. Especially since Instagram had made zero revenue.

Cut forward to the present, Instagram is Facebook’s biggest money minting machine. It’s a billion-dollar business all due to targeted advertisements.

Regardless, today Instagram is facing an identity crisis. Mark Zuckerberg’s shrewd copycat strategy to fit all emerging rival platforms into one has reached a saturation point.

This has caused the once renowned media sharing application to turn into a cluttery mess. A lot of the blame for Instagram’s current state goes to Facebook — who’s unknowingly digging a grave in a rush to make Instagram a family of social media apps.

Cloning Snapchat features was the only smart move

Over the years, Mark Zuckerberg is well known to acquire potential rivals — sometimes by scaring them off. And if everything fails, Facebook unabashedly copies them.

Snapchat was one such rising startup that declined a significant acquisition offer from Facebook.

No wonder Facebook went after them by creating standalone clone apps. From Poke, a disappearing chat to Threads, a quick media sharing app, all of them backfired.

After repeated failed attempts Facebook finally struck gold when it ripped off Snapchat’s hallmark stories feature and placed it at the top of Instagram News Feed. The rest was history.

Instagram Stories not only became an immediate hit but also stalled Snapchat’s momentum.

This blatant copy-paste tactic by Facebook got a lot of flak initially but over the course was considered an ace move and it didn’t stop them from putting this feature in WhatsApp.

Instagram only went ahead and shamelessly copied face filters and adding disappearing messages in DMs.

In doing so, Instagram defeated Snapchat at their own game and became the undisputed king of social media. But sadly, this was the first and last of their great business decisions.

IGTV struggled. Monetizing won't make it any better.

Taking a cue from their Snapchat rip-off Instagram’s next announced IGTV, a standalone app for long-form video content. It was an attempt to knock off YouTube but didn’t garner much attention.

Despite attempts to put an IGTV icon at the top right of the Instagram app to reach a billion users very few users actually downloaded the separate app.

A lukewarm response to IGTV had a lot to do with a hindered user experience that forced the users to switch across apps. Also, people perceived Instagram as a hub for consuming only bit-sized content which made IGTV’s adoption a huge struggle.

Eventually, Instagram removed the explore button and integrated IGTV into the main app. This did drive user engagement to some extent but it was too late as TikTok had already taken over the world by storm.

Nevertheless, the inclusion of a vertical long-form video feature into Instagram was the first sign of bloatedness.

Now today, Instagram has announced IGTV monetization in an effort to draw more content creators to the platform. But intrusive ads in IGTV would only repel more users from the platform.

To make things worse, Instagram doesn’t boast of the same distribution algorithms like YouTube or TikTok. This certainly won’t encourage many creators to join their partner program.

Reels, a TikTok clone will only confuse the users more

Reels, a replica of Facebook’s rival TikTok has just begun rolling out to the public. It comes at a time when Donald Trump has threatened to ban TikTok.

While the timing of this move couldn’t be better, but there’s a lot of skepticism if Instagram Reels would actually get the same kind of success.

Having embedded it into the Instagram main app might bring instant traction but the new feature would find it hard to stand out on a platform that already has a dedicated camera.

If the initial look is anything to do buy, Reels would likely replace the search tab on the bottom of the app. This effort to jam a new Instagram feature and overflow the main newsfeed is bound to make users frustrated and annoyed.

Besides, the current Reels feature on Instagram seems like a small add-on over Stories as a lot of key features such as Duets is missing.

In all possibilities, Instagram’s latest attempt looks like a way to emulate their previous success with Stories. But Reels lacks the magic of TikTok and will find it hard to stand apart on an app that has far too many features already.


Instagram, an app that gained popularity for giving users access to amazing photo filters is slowly becoming a botched-up mess.

Today, by condensing features of Snapchat, YouTube, and TikTok(with plans of merging Messenger), Instagram is suffering from an identity crisis.

By tapping into the markets of other rival apps Instagram is losing the whole plot and focus from their target audience(which aren’t TikTok teenagers or YouTube influencers).

The world values specialists and not generalists. And Facebook, by doing just the opposite with Instagram, is shooting itself in the foot.

This story was originally published on The Big Tech.

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Texas State

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