When Instagram hit the app stores in late 2010, it was one of the first of its kind: a place to share photos and videos with friends and other users around the world. Now, some would call the app anything but unique. After being acquired by Facebook in 2012, the newly run app began to become littered with features similar to other popular social media apps including Snapchat, Youtube, and, most recently, TikTok.
You’ve probably noticed the conversation about their new in-app feature called Reels. Reels is a section specifically dedicated to videos 15 seconds or less, where you can add sounds and other effects to make them fun and unique, almost exactly like TikTok. The Reels reveal came about a month before some surprising news of President Donald Trump declaring he would ban TikTok from U.S. app stores unless the app’s Chinese creators handed the production over to the U.S. The ban, however, was temporarily blocked by a judge.
But, social media users haven’t been excited about seeing the TikTok-esque Reels on their explore page, a similar reaction to when Instagram Stories first came out—a copycat version of Snapchat’s stories. Having this overlap means seeing a lot of repeating content. Most of the Reels on Instagram aren’t created using that platform; they are just simply premade TikToks posted from users’ video libraries.
This may only be a temporary reaction, though. When Instagram first came out with Stories, it closely mirrored Snapchat. But, new features were continually added, and now Stories has dozens of features that aren’t included on Snapchat. A similar reaction also occurred with the introduction of IGTV: in the beginning, many users were so used to posting videos a minute-long or shorter that they barely found use in the feature meant for videos as long as 15 minutes. But now, there are full, edited videos making their way onto the IGTV feed that users would usually post to Youtube. Maybe a similar adjustment is to come with Reels.
When we look at popular social media platforms, Instagram shares features with all the top contenders, except for Twitter. This may be hard for Instagram to emulate, since Twitter has its origins in text alone, while all Instagram posts must contain some type of visual media.
But, if Instagram finds a way to become a new home for Twitter’s audience, that puts smaller social media apps such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and VSCO at a greater risk to lose their platforms, too.
When you think about it, a Twitter-like feature might be the only thing stopping Instagram from becoming the social media hub. Imagine, you could find all your interests and a variety of content all in one place and in one feed; you wouldn’t miss any big moment. You wouldn’t have to worry about having your friends follow you on five apps, when it could just be one. You’d take up less space on your phone with apps, and still get all the features.
But, it’s not like Instagram is looking out solely for the satisfaction of its users—not in this capitalist society. Taking out other social media platforms means more ad revenue driven through Instagram, one of the main ways apps like that can stay free to download. Also, a greater and more diverse user base on the app can attract larger-scale ad deals, meaning greater profits. It looks like this may just be an initiative for more money.
No matter the reason, it looks like we may be headed into a future where we go to one app for anything that wants to entertain us. Was it right for Instagram to take that route? Maybe not, but they aren’t likely to stop considering they’ve yet to get a significant reaction from their users that has impacted them financially. Even if users are upset that Instagram may be copying other apps, at the end of the day it’s hard for them to quit the app in protest since so much goes on on that app everyday. Instagram’s established reputation allows them to make controversial changes like that.
Some may like the new additions and others may have their heart in the original Instagram functions. Regardless, as most companies do, Instagram will continue to make moves that result in the most financial gain. Does that indicate Instagram eventually becoming the complete social media package? Only time, and profits, will tell.