The TikTok-ification of Instagram took a step back as the Meta-owned social app said Thursday it will discontinue a beta test of a full-screen version of the feed and also promised to reduce the number of recommended videos, photos and accounts that people see in Instagram.
But make no mistake: Instagram is still putting its shoulder into video — continuing to aggressively develop and promote Reels, the TikTok-style feature that lets users record and share videos of up to 90 seconds.
Meta’s ad revenue from Reels (across Instagram and Facebook) is now on a $1 billion annual run rate, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told analysts on the Q2 earnings call. The company’s monetization rate for Reels is still lower than Feed or Stories, he added, but longer term “we’re confident that Reels will grow engagement overall and quality and will eventually monetize closer to Feed.”
Some observers saw the changes Instagram announced Thursday as caving to a grassroots pressure campaign urging it to stop mimicking TikTok. Most notably, a petition to “Make Instagram Instagram Again” was promoted by mega-influencers Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian. But the Change.org petition, which now has 230,000 signees, specifically complains that Instagram Reels is an unnecessary part of the app — and Reels is not going away.
“We’ll continue to build features that make it easier and more fun to create and share Reels on Instagram,” Instagram said in a blog last week outlining new features.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the “experimental” full-screen mode, which looked similar to TikTok’s presentation, was available to only a small percentage of users. That beta test will be discontinued within the next two weeks, he said in an interview with tech journalist Casey Newton, who first reported the changes. “For the new feed designs, people are frustrated and the usage data isn’t great,” Mosseri said in the interview. “So there I think that we need to take a big step back, regroup, and figure out how we want to move forward.”
Today, about 15% of content in Facebook user’s feed and “a little more than that” on Instagram from people, groups or accounts that you don’t follow is algorithmically recommended, Zuckerberg said on the earnings call, adding that Meta expects those percentages “to more than double by the end of next year.” But, according to Mosseri, Instagram now will temporarily reduce the amount of recommended posts and accounts it displays.
“We recognize that changes to the app can be an adjustment, and while we believe that Instagram needs to evolve as the world changes, we want to take the time to make sure we get this right,” Meta said in a statement.
All that said, Instagram is still very much aiming to keep pace with TikTok.
On July 21, Instagram announced that in the coming weeks new video posts shorter than 15 minutes will be shared as Reels (videos posted previously are not affected). Instagram also said it will consolidate the video and Reels tab on user profiles, “so there will be one home for all of your videos.”
Mosseri, in the interview with Newton, acknowledged that Instagram could choose to not try to make video “as good as the competition’s video offering” — a clear reference to TikTok. But, he said, “I think that would be a mistake. And I think that over time, that would mean people use Instagram less. Which is obviously bad for our business, but also bad for creators. Because then creators will have less reach — if the overall pie shrinks, the average reach for the average creator also shrinks along with it.”