About two weeks ago, while I was busy Snapchatting all the people at the park playing Pokémon Go, I wondered for a hot second why Instagram doesn’t let you add text, drawings and emoji to your posts.
Then I chuckled at what a stupid idea that would be.
For Instagram’s parent company Facebook (and CEO Mark Zuckerberg), it’s the ultimate f*ck you to Snapchat after failing to kill the app several times with its own unsuccessful clones — and failing to outright buy the rival app.
Well, Zuckerberg’s having the last laugh now, because his company basically just declared war on Snapchat.
I can just picture Zuckerberg wearing his
robe hacker hoodie, sitting in some evil underground lair, finger-tenting Mr. Burns-style, as he watches a wall of screens showing Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel freaking out.
Adding a “Stories” section — even if it’s a complete Snapchat derivative — to Instagram is wise, no doubt, since the photo-sharing social network has over 300 million daily active users, which is twice as many as Snapchat’s 150 million.
But, I can see right through what’s happening.
While Facebook and all the olds who can’t figure Snapchat out are celebrating, it’s now very apparent to me that Instagram is a trojan horse.
Whatever popular features Facebook wants — and if it fails to gain traction either through its own clone or through an acquisition — it’ll use Instagram’s large, influential install base to get it.
Instagram is becoming a bloated everything app because the cool kids aren’t on Facebook. Facebook is skating to where the eyeballs are, which is Instagram, in order to slay Snapchat.
From this moment on, things will never be the same for Instagram.
Different apps for different content
Instagram is great precisely because it’s not Snapchat and Snapchat is great because it’s notInstagram.
The two apps offer different experiences. And I carve out time for both of them because they don’t compete.
I go to Instagram to look at beautiful photography. And I go to Snapchat to ghost in on my friends’ lives through Snapchat Stories, like some kind of creep looking through a digital peep hole.
On the creation side, it’s the same deal:
Sure, there’s occasional overlap, but for the most part I expect to see cruder, spontaneous content vomited onto Snapchat Stories compared to posts shared on Instagram. And that’s OK, because the bar for content on Snapchat is miserably low.
I’m not saying there aren’t sh*t qual pics — I can’t stand all the memes and food pics. OH. MY. GOD. THE FOOD PICS. — on Instagram. But the ratio of garbage to not garbage isn’t as high (at least on my curated feed).
Instagram may have had humble lo-fi beginnings trying to emulate the instant film aesthetic of Polaroid, but the app has transformed over the years into a serious digital gallery where tossing a bloody Nashville or Rise or Earlybird filter on top of a pic and calling it a day invites scorn.
You just don’t do it unless you want to be called a newb. #nofilter for life.
I know many people still use Instagram as a platform to post instantaneous photos and videos. That’s great, but the best content is almost never instant. It requires carefully edited and timed postings. (Well, unless you’re Justin Bieber and every freakin’ selfie you post sends fans into a frenzy.)
What is Instagram anymore?
By cloning Snapchat’s Stories, Instagram is now an app trying to please everyone.
People who don’t use Snapchat but do use Instagram will be exposed to it. People who can’t grasp Snapchat but understand Instagram will be more inclined to learn how to use Instagram Stories just because they’ll internalize that it’s easier by association, even if it’s not.
And people who use both Instagram and Snapchat may find themselves starting to favor one over the other, most likely the one where all their friends are on. (Facebook is betting it’s on Instagram).
And by trying to appeal to Snapchatters, Instagram will alienate hardcore ‘grammers.
What the hell is Instagram anymore is what I’m now wondering. Is it a place I go to to look at people’s fine photos? A place to look at silly memes? A place to slide into people’s DMs? A place to make Snapchat-like stories that also disappear within 24 hours?
Facebook says its Stories feature further helps people remember moments in their life, but, uh, that’s what Facebook is for. And it’s become so large with so many features that it’s turned people off.
Like I said earlier, I know what I’m getting when I use different social platforms. Now, Instagram is just one big mosh pit of content.
I hate it.
I’ve been an Instagram user since day one. Yes, I’m talking launch day on Oct. 6, 2010. I’ve seen it grow from an unknown app to the goliath it is today.
And I’ve seen it evolve and expand its offerings from just still photos to videos, from just squares to other aspect ratios, from blue and white to a black and white interface.
Contrary to popular belief, I’m open to change when it makes sense. But this one is such a paradigm shift in Instagram’s focus that I may just quit this app before it becomes a sh*t sandwich of everything mashed into one.
I don’t need two Snapchats. One is enough. And it’s already on my phone’s main homescreen. Remember how difficult it was to manage a Facebook and a Google+ identity? Facebook eventually won out.
Oh, and you probably already know this, but Instagram is about to become the battery hogging bastard that Snapchat is: