The Instagram We Loved Is Dead

A steady shift to video has made the beloved social platform all but unrecognizable

Lance Ulanoff
OneZero
Published in
4 min readFeb 6, 2022

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Photo by Souvik Banerjee on Unsplash

Scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day, I hit a video, then another, and another. Where were the photos? They’re not gone, but on a site that features an analog camera as its logo, they’re now second-class citizens.

Instagram was an early “buy if you can’t build and compete,” for Meta (Facebook), and since 2012, has been a significant growth and revenue driver for the company. But now, a decade into the $1 billlon acquisition, Instagram is facing an identity crisis.

The platform’s early rise coincided with the explosion of photo-capable smartphones, especially the iPhone, which launched in 2007 but didn’t arrive on multiple carriers beyond AT&T until 2011. Those early cameras were woefully underpowered compared to the 12 MP wide-angles and optical zoom capable lenses we enjoy today on even the most modest smartphones. Still, Instagram’s simple square format (so popular that the iPhone’s camera included an auto-square crop) turned even the most average image into a work of art.

Did we overuse filters? Sure. So much so that the hashtag “#nofilter” emerged early in Instagram’s lifespan.

The rise of Insta videos

It’s not that Instagram videos are new. Facebook added 15-second clips to the Instagram feed mix back in 2013. A few years later, they added Instagram Live (likely a response to Meerkat and Periscope). That same year, Instagram added Stories, a Snapchat-style content sharing feature. In 2020, we got Reels to compete with the surging TikTok, a platform that continues to eat Instagram’s lunch.

The pattern here is obvious. Facebook’s ability to compete with surging competition for eyeballs has largely boiled down to replicating whatever its competition is building. Owing to Instagram’s already large audience and effective and often inscrutable algorithms, it’s been winning this way, too.

However, even before Facebook’s calamitous week, in which it warned that it could lose $10 billion next quarter due to Apple’s anti-privacy measures, and its shocking quarterly slip in Daily Active User numbers, the complexion of Instagram was…

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Lance Ulanoff
OneZero

Tech expert, journalist, social media commentator, amateur cartoonist and robotics fan.