Instagram is reversing some changes to the app following a user backlash that saw influencer royalty Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian turning on the platform.
The photo and video sharing app was accused of mimicking TikTok at the expense of its most loyal users, after user anger at a series of changes boiled over this week. Instagram said on Thursday it was rolling back some of the changes including a test version of the app that gave a full-screen display to posts.
It will also tone down changes to its algorithm that resulted in users’ feeds being deluged 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 tech newsletter 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.”
Rumblings among some of Instagram’s more than 1 billion users came to a head on Monday when Jenner, the app’s third most followed user with 361 million followers joined her sister Kim Kardashian, the seventh biggest with 326 million, in sharing a meme that demanded “Make Instagram Instagram Again.” The meme added: “stop trying to be tiktok i just want to see cute photos of my friends.”
People who used the platform to interact with friends and family also complained that their feeds had been flooded with unwanted videos. The backlash prompted Mosseri to post a video on Tuesday – which he said was recorded before he saw the Kardashian posts – in which he said “more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time”. But by Thursday he had conceded that Instagram had gone too far.
“For the new feed designs, people are frustrated and the usage data isn’t great,” he told Platformer. “So there I think that we need to take a big step back, regroup, and figure out how we want to move forward.”
Mosseri added that Instagram would reduce the amount of recommended posts after users complained about being pushed content from accounts they do not follow. “When you discover something in your field that you didn’t follow before, there should be a high bar – it should just be great,” Mosseri said. “You should be delighted to see it. And I don’t think that’s happening enough right now. So I think we need to take a step back, in terms of the percentage of feed that are recommendations.”
The Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, was among the critics of the recommendations change, saying: “Everything is an ad, and your feed is full of people you don’t follow.”
The emergence of TikTok, which has more than 1 billion users worldwide, has challenged the established order in social media. In a permanent change announced by Instagram last week that will not be reversed, it said all videos posted on Instagram will become “Reels”, the app’s TikTok-style video feature.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta, Instagram’s parent company and also the owner of Facebook, on Wednesday reported a 30% increase in time spent on Reels. However, it also reported its first year-on-year decline in quarterly revenue, for the April-June period, a fall it blamed on macroeconomic conditions.