Good news for Instagram purists – Instagram chief Adam Mosseri says that the platform has gone too hard on pushing videos, and will look to make photos more of a focus once again in 2023.
Mosseri made the remark as part of his weekly Q and A series, conducted in his IG Stories.
As per Mosseri:
“I think we were overfocused on video in 2022 and pushed ranking too far, and basically showed too many videos and not enough photos. We’ve since balanced, so things like how often someone likes photos versus videos, and how often someone comments on photos versus videos, are roughly equal, which is a good sign that things are balanced.”
Mosseri further notes that photos will remain a key focus for the app, and that maintaining the right balance in this respect will be key.
Which, as noted, is good news for Instagram users who’ve long been pushing for the app to avoid straying too far from its roots. Which, over the last two years, it definitely feels like it has, as more video – and in particular, more Reels – have encroached into user feeds, and changed the feel of the app entirely, in various ways.
It’s actually felt, at times, that Instagram has lost its way, and become too influenced by the latest trends, as opposed to establishing, or maintaining its own niche.
Instagram rose to popularity on the back of still images, with users posting their memories and compositions as a sort of interactive photo album online. The rise of Instagram coincided with the development of phone cameras, and as users became more snap happy with their devices, Instagram provided them with a means to share their content, which eventually also saw the addition of filters and simple editing tools to enhance those creations, and put more focus on shared moments and memories.
But the arrival of Stories changed that. Instagram’s popularity with younger users, and visual focus, made it an ideal vehicle for Meta to blunt the growth of Snapchat, which it saw as a rising competitor, and Stories quickly became a key focus for growth at the app.
And that worked. IG Stories basically killed Snapchat’s growth for a period, and saw Instagram usage skyrocket. And with that, Instagram became a new home for further experiments and features, while the growth of Stories also triggered a bigger shift towards video – which, much like the expanded access to still camera tools, also leaned into the evolution of technology, and the availability of video options via mobile devices.
Since then, however, Instagram’s seemingly been in an identity crisis. Is it a photo-sharing app anymore? Is Stories the focus? Has Reels become the key thing, or is Instagram just trying to make it that way to quash another potential competitor?
Given the various algorithmic shifts, the original focus of the app has largely been overshadowed by Meta’s broader business push. And while Instagram usage has grown, it’s also become more cluttered, less focused, and increasingly less unique in its value proposition.
Which Mosseri is aware of, and is seemingly now looking to fix.
Does that mean that we’ll see fewer recommendations, and more still images in the main feed?
I wouldn’t hold your breath on the first note, but you could start to see more photos creeping back in, as Instagram looks to re-align with the more authentic, engaging experiences that launched the first iteration of the app.
But it will all be dictated by usage. Video became a key focus because it meant more people spent more time in the app. Still images will be the same – if Instagram sees more engagement and more time spent as a result of showing people more photos, it’ll keep moving down that path.
But if it ends up being that Reels is the key driver, you’ll see more Reels.
Which feels less unique, less Instagram-like, based on what it once was.
But maybe, if you engage with more photos, that will help to send more signals that people do still like this content, along with everything else.
And with the rise of more authentic social apps like BeReal, it could be a key trend to watch throughout the year.