I, of all people, recently received a brand-new Instagram user interface. The changes appear to be in line with the company’s intention to switch from its original model of photo sharing among friends to the one pioneered by TikTok: showing as much algorithmically targeted video content as possible and boosting engagement wherever possible, even though it has not yet been implemented for all users.
As Instagram has frequently been “inspired” by its more creative competitors, such as when they clone-stamped Stories from Snapchat, the new UI is obviously influenced by TikTok. In this instance, they seized the chance to introduce a few problematic tendencies and decisions, all of which were evidently made in order to boost their analytics and compel users to interact with the app’s content in a particular way. I contacted Instagram to find out if and when the new UI would be available to all users; if I hear back, I’ll update.
The first change I noticed was that tapping on videos to mute or unmute them no longer worked (sorry, ReelsTM).
The first change I noticed was that I could no longer tap on movies to mute or unmute them (sorry, ReelsTM). Since millions of people check their feeds in public settings where the boisterous cheering or music blitz of an arbitrary sponsored video would be an unpleasant surprise for everyone within 20 feet, this has always been a user-friendly feature. Up until you tapped it, it was assumed that the sound was off.
Simply pausing or un pausing something now requires tapping. Why is it an issue that it still makes it quiet? Because they increased the difficulty of digesting the content in the manner of your choice. You must put your complete phone on silent mode if you want Instagram to be silent.
My phone is set to vibrate constantly, but that is hardly “quiet,” I don’t know about you. Because some apps control their own volume levels, some override the system volume, and so on, I literally have no idea what volume my phone is set to at any one time. I sometimes tune my music down for a game and it comes on completely silent (or, now, for Instagram). How many times will I have to press the volume down button before this potential viral video, which is apparently a TikTok screencap, stops talking? Unable to state. I loved that the app was set to mute by default, or at the very least, that a single press would make it disappear without disrupting other apps or the phone as a whole.
Dark patterns frequently include more direction than deception. Here, Instagram wants you to experience the inconvenience of the video-muting process in order to watch the video more intently and perhaps Remix the ReelTM by tapping the tiny round soundtrack button, another Instagram invention! They don’t let you make the decision; they greatly favour the side they want to see more of. All of this is normal Meta strategy for influencing user behaviour.
The item-by-item flipping style, which is also strikingly reminiscent of TikTok, has replaced the traditional infinite scroll as the second significant UI modification. This has obviously been a hit in that app, and if you’re focusing on video content, it makes some sense:You should display the entire frame when a video is playing to ensure that you don’t miss the beginning. When scrolling through photographs, it doesn’t matter nearly as much and you may take your time.
Why is this a troubling trend? Again, it comes down to choosing how you interact with the content. An endless scroll feed gives the impression of being like a timeline that you are scrolling back over. Instead of following a meme account, you could let messages go past and stop it with your finger when you found something amusing.
Post-by-post scrolling forces you to focus entirely on each image or video, even if just for a few moment, before moving on. Again, it’s not that you can’t move on quickly; rather, Instagram is placing its finger on the scale by requiring a new minimum level of interaction for each piece of content, which they picked rather than the user. It doesn’t trick you; it just forces you to stop at every item since there is no other option.
This is especially important when it comes to Instagram advertising, which always show up at the fourth item in my new UI, starting with the second item. I’ve inquired as to whether this would apply to all posts, but postings 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, etc. are all advertisements for me. This is all before suggested posts, which I’ll get to in a moment. Taking into account the prior feature, you will see that it is now impossible to just zoom past an advertisement in the app. The advertisement will now always fill your entire display until you touch the screen to dismiss it, unlike in the past when you might have scrolled through it quickly and it might not have registered.
Consider that. It’s similar to switching from a banner to a popup in that neither one prevents you from accessing the content, but one requires you to do some action in order to go past it. Again, you can still quickly scroll through your feed, but what used to require one finger flick may now require five or six. This was already present in stories, but at least you were only tapping.
Instagram is counting on the fact that by the time you pay attention to figure out what the post is—ad or not—the hook has already been established and you’ve spent enough time with it to boost an esoteric eyeball measure.
This is especially true for “recommended” posts, which now only feature a “follow” button next to the account name as their only indicator. Also Read
Previously, it would state “Suggested for you” or something similar at the top, letting you know right away that this wasn’t your friend’s dog but rather one of the numerous doggregators (there are so many!). Now, the material appears first, followed by a tiny indication that you have never encountered this account before. Fortunately, the option to “snooze” suggested posts for 30 days at a period is still available in the dot menu. I’m just waiting for that feature to be eliminated as well.
The bottom half of the screen is the top half of an algorithm post after you reach the end of your organic material on Instagram, which is one last tiny detail. I don’t know how long this has been going on, but it kind of disproves the notion that they want you to take a break once you’re “all caught up.” The fact that “see older posts” is so little and “watch algorithmically created material” is the default action shows that they blatantly want you to keep reading. Want to watch some recommended videos? is simply made clear, without saying so.
With all of this, Instagram is pushed much closer to TikTok and has more overall control over the user experience. However, the patterns they’ve embraced here are harmful to the Instagram experience that users are accustomed to and like. I understand that the Instagram product team believes that copying whatever app is now more popular than them is the best way to survive. I’m not advocating against change, but rather refrain from making overtly negative changes.