The social media giant released a patch on Thursday, changing the way users read content by replacing the traditional vertical scroll with Tinder-esque horizontal taps and swipes. It’s not just a surface change, though: the update forced users to scroll through entire galleries of ads and pictures, one by one, when before you could simply swipe past the entire gallery. People were not amused, and Instagram quickly reverted to the original format.
It’s Just a Test
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, reassured everyone that the update wasn’t going to be permanent. The former Facebook exec moved quickly, tweeting that the update was “just a test that went to a few orders of magnitude more people than intended” and not ready for wide release.
Instagram later released an official statement along the same lines. “Due to a bug, some users saw a change to the way their feed appears today. We quickly fixed the issue and feed is back to normal. We apologize for any confusion.” Opening and closing the app for anyone who still has the update will restore Instagram to its original format, pre-update.
It also seems like only iPhone users were affected, with Android and desktop faithfuls reporting no change in their feeds. In any case, the update is no longer available.
More Than a Mistake
Despite the company doing its best to return things to normal, many users were unhappy with the direction Instagram is taking. David Mack sarcastically applauded the app’s near-weekly attempts to introduce something new, tweeting, “Instagram: If it Ain’t Broke, Break It.” Even Hot Pockets got in on the action, warning followers on Twitter: “psa: don’t update your Instagram.” The Twitter crowd were quick to poke fun at Insta’s blunder, encouraging users to switch to the short-form media company.
That’s not to say Instagram has been doing badly. Since Facebook snapped up the group for $1 billion in 2012, the brand has attracted 25 times the number of users. As of this summer, more than 1 billion people use Instagram.
But people don’t like plagiarism. “Insta stole stories from snap, don’t @ me,” reads a tweet from 2016. It’s since been retweeted millions of times. That particular update saw a new form of content introduced to the picture-happy Instagram: short, disappearing videos and pictures. Except Snapchat, founded almost 5 years prior to the update, did it first.
“Don’t just update things to update them,” a user complained on Instagram’s official website. Users want meaningful, substantive changes. New features that they haven’t seen before and aren’t on any media, not carbon copies of already successful apps. Now, it seems the social media group is bent on incorporating all the successful features of other apps instead of investing in its own potential.
It’s not a watershed moment or even a fall from grace, but maybe Instagram needs to stop obsessing with constant updates and focus on the services it offers to users. Even Apple, whose business model in the early days relied on revolutionary updates and huge profit margins, has settled into the middle-aged business of providing services like iCloud, Apple Music and the App Store. Even as excitement and economic return around devices like the iPhone stagnates, Apple’s services business has only grown. Exponentially.
Will Instagram go the way of MySpace? Probably not. But it’s never a good thing to have traumatized users commenting at you all day. Besides, there’s always Twitter.