After recently launching a dedicated Reels tab on the main, in-app navigation bar for users in India, Instagram is now looking to add the same in all regions where Reels is available, while it's also testing optimal placement for its new Shops tab, expanding the app's core functionality and focus.
As you can see in these screenshots, Instagram is testing three variations of where it will place the new 'Shops and 'Reel' tabs on the lower navigation bar, with the 'Search', 'Activity' and/or 'Create' buttons being moved to the top, alongside the 'Direct' tab, in order to make way.
Any change, of course, will cause some annoyance for users who are accustomed to how things are already - here's a closer look at the three options being tested:
As explained by Instagram chief Adam Mosseri:
"We’re starting to test different versions of Instagram’s home screen – when you open the app you’ll soon see a Reels tab and a Shop tab in one of these three layouts. These changes reflect shifts we’re seeing from people, both in how they use the product but also how they push culture forward on Instagram: rise of creators, explosion of video, acceleration of online shopping. We want to adapt to these shifts while keeping things simple."
Though as some have noted, it may not actually be keeping things simple at all.
Instagram began as a basic photo sharing app, a space focused on artistic expression with a feed of image posts from users. Since then it's expanded into multi-image updates, video posts, messaging, Stories, IGTV, shopping, Reels, etc. And as Instagram continues to add more and more functions, the app is becoming increasingly crowded, with some criticizing the addition of Reels already, noting that it's getting to be a little too much for one app.
That could actually be part of TikTok's appeal, which, of course, serves as the 'inspiration' for Reels.
TikTok is a simple stream of short video clips, with the app opening to the feed and enabling users to scroll through, with a UX that facilitates compulsive consumption of its content. Reels doesn't have that, which is likely why Instagram is looking to give Reels its own tab in the app. Which, of course, isn't the same, but Instagram will be hoping that by giving Reels more specific focus, it can help boost the function and make it a bigger rival for TikTok - or indeed, a replacement, in the case of a TikTok ban.
Which has already happened in India, where Instagram says Reels is taking off, and may still happen in the US, if the company isn't sold off in the next couple of weeks. That still feels unlikely, given the potential revenue at stake, but right now, talks on a TikTok sell-off appear to be at an impasse because the Chinese government has imposed new rules on the transfer of technological advancements in foreign trade deals, which likely includes TikTok's algorithms and back-end process info.
A TikTok without its core tech is likely not worth anywhere near the same price tag. As of right now, negotiators are still establishing what the new law means for the potential sale.
Which is why Instagram is keen to push Reels as hard as it can right now, as uncertainty continues to cloud the future of TikTok, and is likely causing TikTok influencers to, at the least, consider their options just in case.
Instagram has been testing both the Reels and Shopping tabs for some time, with the Shops tab announced as part of the secondary update on Instagram Shops back in July.
You may have even seen one of these tabs in your app already - Instagram has been experimenting with various layouts and button shifts for some time, with certain user groups having their message tab move around or their search button disappear.
This is why, and while it will take some time for Instagram to test and confirm the exact right placement for each, both tabs are indeed coming, which will change the format of your home screen.
Is that a big deal? That depends.
If you believe that Reels has an opportunity to slow TikTok's growth, then yes, the placement of a more prominent Reels button on the main screen is important, while shopping is also set to become a bigger consideration for Instagram users moving forward.
But if you don't plan on using either function, it's probably more of an annoyance.
Instagram now has to weigh up which is more beneficial - maximizing the usage of its newer functions or appeasing user groups who'd prefer to truly keep it simple. I'm guessing the former will win out, and while it may take a little adjustment, it seems likely that both Stories and Reels are set to get even more focus in the app moving forward.