Instagram’s focus and algorithm are changing (and not changing)

The photo and sharing app needed to make changes in two areas: the rise of video and an algorithm determining what you see.

As the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, said (at the end of last year): “We’re no longer just a square photo-sharing app. At Instagram we’re always trying to build new features that help you get the most out of your experience. Right now we’re focused on four key areas: Creators, Video, Shopping and Messaging.”

The first step was to virtually transform all video uploads into Reels, whether you want them to or not, and it’s also added a slew of new creative tools for Reels as it doubles, triples, and quadruples down on the short video format. The main reason for this was to include all video clips in the Reels feed.

As explained by Meta: “Since reels offer a more immersive and entertaining way to watch and create videos on Instagram, we’re bringing the full-screen experience to your video posts, too. In the coming weeks, new video posts shorter than 15 minutes will be shared as reels.”

Instagram’s content recommendations have also changed. It comes from accounts Instagram’s algorithm thinks you’ll like rather than people you follow.

The main reason for these changes is TikTok. The popular short-form video app for younger smartphone users has grown in popularity. According to the company, more than 1 billion people visited TikTok each month as of September last year.

Following all of the changes, Instagram was met with a massive user backlash, prompting the company to reverse some of the changes.

After user outrage over a series of changes over the last week, the app was accused of imitating TikTok at the expense of its most devoted users. In response, Instagram stated that they will reverse some of the changes, including a test version of the app that displayed posts in full-screen mode. It will also reduce algorithm changes that resulted in users’ feeds being flooded with videos from accounts they do not follow.

“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,” said Instagram’s head, Adam Mosseri, 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.”

For now, Instagram is holding off on these changes but we were forewarned that changes to Instagram are still going to happen.

Mosseri clarified (in a Twitter post) that the pullback on these changes to Instagram isn’t permanent:  “What I want is an Instagram that is about photos who prefer photos, and is about video for those who prefer that format.”