Instagram users have recently seen changes to their feeds that look remarkably similar to another social media app.
Where there used to be photos and posts from accounts you follow, there are now suggested videos and Reels, seemingly mimicking the format of TikTok. The app is also testing a full-screen feed instead of its usual square post feed. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri posted a video to his Twitter on Tuesday to address the changes after receiving concerns from consumers.
Photographer Tati Bruening started a Change.org petition on July 22 that was circulated on social media, urging the company to “make Instagram Instagram again.” The post has garnered over 1.7 million likes.
"The goal of this petition is to bring attention to what consumers want from Instagram and to start a conversation surrounding the health of our beloved app," the petition reads.
The petition outlines four main points of dissatisfaction, including bringing back chronological timelines, prioritizing photos over videos and listening to content creators. At the time of publication, the petition amassed over 155,000 signatures.
The petition has sparked a passionate online discourse about bringing back the "old" Instagram.
"Instagram is trying so hard to compete with TikTok that they're trying to become another TikTok," author Toni Tone tweeted. "If I wanted to see video after video from random pages I don't follow, I wouldn't be on Instagram. Do what we need from you, and bring back the photos of our actual friends!!!"
Another person wrote, "the instagram update is terrible. let tiktok be tiktok and let instagram be instagram. they're killing their platform."
The new changes were not overlooked by celebrities, either. Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner both joined the trend by reposting Bruening's post to their Instagram stories. Part of the post read, "stop trying to be tiktok i just want to see cute photos of my friends."
The attention and complaints about the new changes prompted Instagram's head, Mosseri, to post a video to his Twitter Tuesday, reiterating that Instagram will continue to pursue changes as it develops.
"I do believe that more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time," Mosseri said in the video. He said while Instagram aims to keep some of its original aspects, change for the app is inevitable. "We're also going to need to evolve, because the world is changing quickly, and we're going to have to change along with it."
Mosseri also emphasized that the new full-screen feed feature is just a test for a small percentage of Instagram users to see if the new format works well for the app.
"It's not yet good, and we're going to have to get it to a good place if we're going to ship it to the rest of the Instagram community," he said in the video.
Instagram intends to continue pursuing recommended content, Mosseri said, though there are still options for users to instead view their "following feed."
But consumers are still not satisfied. Under Mosseri's tweet, more than 2,000 replies overwhelmingly show people's resistance to the app beginning to resemble TikTok.
Social media expert Mari Smith said Instagram's changes are likely a decision based on Meta, the parent company of Instagram, viewing TikTok as a “fierce competitor.”
“The approach for quite some time now, probably a couple of years since reels first came out, is just to blatantly copy TikTok, and basically, turning Instagram into what I like to call ‘InstaTok,’” Smith told TODAY. “(It’s) an effort to think that that’s what’s going to attract this younger audience.”
Greg Isenberg, the CEO of web3 and community design firm Late Checkout and an advisor at Reddit, told TODAY it's obvious that the community is not responding well to the changes, and Instagram should focus on its strengths and what it originally set out to do.
"What ends up happening is you end up having a Frankenstein-looking product because you've got stories that are from essentially Snapchat and Reels that are from TikTok," Isenberg told TODAY. "I guess the worry I would have if I was Instagram is are people going to be as connected to this product in six or 12 or 18 months when it doesn't feel like the original brand promise was met?"
Similarly, Smith referenced what's known as a "feature bloat," a term used to refer to packing too many features into one product. She said this confuses consumers because there are too many features to choose from, especially when they're copied from another app.
But marketing expert and advisor Jay Baer told TODAY that Instagram and TikTok are fundamentally different systems, and the changes mark a significant new chapter for Meta pursuing an entirely different philosophy.
While Instagram and Facebook are catered toward providing content and keeping up with people who you know, TikTok is all based on discovery and recommendations, Baer said.
"TikTok is not a social network — TikTok is a discovery. And it's a huge, huge difference," Baer told TODAY. "So the reality is that what Facebook/Instagram has done for literally 20 years is say, 'We're the best at social networking, come get us.' And TikTok said, 'Well, what if we don't try to be a better social network? What if we just flip the script on the whole thing?'"
Baer also emphasized that he thinks Meta has an advantage with its extensive messaging features through Instagram DMs and Messenger.
While only time will tell which direction Meta and Instagram ultimately choose to go in, Baer said the implications of the app's changes are significant nevertheless.
"If Meta, which runs most social networks, says, 'We can’t keep up, we can’t monetize this successfully anymore, we're going to change to a discovery engine' — I think the implications of this are going to be huge over the next two or three years," he said.