Instagram’s TikTok-ification is driving an exodus to rivals


Photographers, designers and other types of creatives disabled by Instagram’s pivot to TikTok-like features are tentatively turning to alternative platforms.

Why is this important: Instagram has long been a digital gallery space for artists of all kinds, helping them find an audience, connect with other creatives, and land paid gigs.

  • But the gradual evolution of the Meta-owned platform into an advertising and business application that favors short videos and algorithmically curated content has left the future of digital art sharing in flux.

The context: Instagram has downplayed still images for years. But more recent changes, such as a focus on purchases and a big increase in the amount of suggested content that appears in users’ feeds, have forced a reckoning.

  • Instagram has become a global phenomenon thanks to its emphasis on “visual storytelling”, writing photographer and technical journalist Om Malik. But, he says, it’s now “marketing and selling substandard products and poor services by influencers with less depth than a sheet of paper.”
  • Instagram head Adam Mosseri recently backtracked on some of the more controversial changes, though he signaled that the Instagram of yore isn’t coming back.

A handful of rival apps and platforms report recent spikes in user activity.

  • They include relatively new upstarts, such as Glass (for photographers of all genres) and Graining (for cinema photographers, in particular).
  • Even old favorites like Flickr – a pioneer in digital photography sharing that won the loyalty of serious photographers in the mid-2000s – are see a boostand some creatives are turning to Tumblr, another haven for longtime artists.
  • Others are also experimenting with electronic newsletters.

What they say : “We started working on Glass…because we felt like the photo community that existed on Instagram that built Instagram’s back no longer exists,” says community manager Daniel Agee and marketing at Glass. “2012, 2013, Instagram will never come back. And this internet will never come back.”

  • Agee says Instagram’s advertising and sales-backed model has made it a seedy place for artists trying to share their work.

  • In contrast, Glass is subscription-based, at $4.99/month.
  • The fact that Glass is ad-free makes its design noticeably cleaner than Instagram’s, and Agee says the site even prohibits brands from signing up to sell their products or services.
  • Subscription fees could incentivize users to be active and positive participants.

Yes, but: None of these services are likely to come close to Instagram’s one billion users. Glass’s user base, for example, is in the mid-five-digit range.

  • Choosing a strategy that doesn’t rely on mega-scale can make sense in the long run – small online groups built around specific interests (like some small subreddits) tend to be healthier environments than huge ones. free-for-all networks (like Twitter).
  • But the scale helps creatives looking to build a reputation and sell stuff. Some will end up embracing video, and many will settle for getting used to instagram changes.

The big picture: It’s all part and parcel of the longstanding tension between creators and platforms.

  • Creators have relied on apps like Instagram and YouTube to reach their audiences, leaving them exposed to the whims of the platforms and the types of content they prioritize.

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