Instagram is embarrassing itself because it didn't steal, it copied

Five days after Instagram launched in October 2010 I graced the new photo-sharing service with this gold nugget.

[Instagram screenshot from October 2010] (https://www.instagram.com/p/-iO/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=)

4,301 days later who knew that I could have summed up the entire social network in four words.

“Make me feel better!”

Instagram made me feel better for the longest time. The simple act of making and viewing photos was lubricated to the point of a simple addiction. I could make photos and share them so easily, and you could share your photos and I could experience them so easily. We would doom scroll wanting to see more of each other’s world through the film-filtered Instagram app. Instagram, having stolen from Hipstamatic, did what the hispters never achieved - they made photo sharing easy and beautiful on our new fandangled Apple-branded telephones.

I still remember the early months of Britt and my relationship when she learned about Instagram and when she found out it wasn’t available for Android phones we bought her an iPhone. She switched to an iPhone to use a free photo-sharing app.

Making people feel better is the key to success in business, you’re solving people’s problems, making them feel better. Instagram made us feel so much better.

In the almost 12 years since, the service has adapted new features, like video, IGTV, Stories, and Reels. Each step along that path of evolution has become more and more embarrassing for it.

In 2015 when it adopted Snapchat’s Stories feature the theft was seen as an act of survival, and we generally all went along with it. After all, we wanted Stories but didn’t want to change to Snapchat and risk getting sexted by some young person along the way.

2018’s introduction of IGTV was a hedge against YouTube on mobile. Turns out that portrait/tall video was a few years too early for us.

But in the first year of the Covid pandemic when Instagram replicated TikTok’s video service as an Instagram feature called Reels, that’s when the social network started losing its soul. The desperation to kill TikTok by replicating, copying, the whole service as a feature has brought us to July 2022 when the entire app has evolved into an Instagram-shaped TikTok.

There’s a difference between stealing and copying.

Great artists steal. When an artist - I’m not sure Adam Mosseri would identify as an artist - copies, they replicate, duplicate, they make a facsimile of something else. It lacks soul, and it lacks care. Copying is not what an artist does. Copying is what a lazy corporate slave does.

Stealing, however, is key to being a great artist. If I steal from you, I take your thing and it becomes mine. I take ownership of it. I care for it. It has my attention, it has my soul. Great artists steal. They take your idea and make it their own. If Instagram stole TikTok’s video feature, it would look different to Reels. Reels wasn’t stolen from TikTok, it was copied.

The easiest way to see if Instagram stole or copied TikTok would be to open the recently updated app and see if it carries the craftsmanship of people who care. Is the user experience beautiful, is it thought through? The content being posted on Instagram as a Reel, does it have a Tiktok watermark on it or is it original content made for Instagram?

Also, what’s the deal with some parts of the app being black like a dark mode, and some being white. The recent update is just so poorly implemented.

I often wonder about what the future looks like, and the only data we have to work with is the past. Which major brands, companies, and products ceased to exist in the past - and why? Why am I typing this on a MacBook instead of a Compaq? Why is my phone an iPhone, not a Nokia? Why is my car a Mazda, not a Holden? Why is my internet connection provided by Aussie Broadband, not OzEmail?

For all the P&Ls, corporate mission statements, leadership changes, and org charts, I humbly believe that products/brands/companies that continue to exist, exist because they carry soul and bring purpose into the world, they continue to solve our problems. For all the complaints you can have about Apple Inc., there is a mountain of evidence that the individuals inside the company care about the products they ship. They might have different priorities than you or I, and what they care about might differ from what you’d like them to care about, but it is inarguable that they care.

It’s clear, without a doubt, that Meta, Mark Zuckerberg, and Adam Mosseri, do not care about Instagram. They care about eradicating - or at least neutralising - the competition and now that they can’t simply buy their competition, the goal is to strangle them out of the marketplace. Welcome to modern capitalism, and Meta is welcome to engage in it, but I’m also at liberty to comment that it’s embarrassing and I can’t help but feel that this recent copying won’t result in the goal they are shooting for.

My friend, Scotty McDonald, accused me of becoming a ratchety old man who doesn’t like change, tweeting: “I remember when you were the fearless, early adopting, shining light in my life”. I honestly hope this isn’t the beginning of my slide into the old man yells at cloud meme. But that’s why I blog, to document my eventual demise into a senile old man who might of had a few correct insights along the way.

Regardless, the July 2022 “TikTokfication” of Instagram doesn’t make me feel better, and that was Instagram’s one job.