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Ugh, why: Instagram will try making its app look like TikTok

The social network plans to show some users full-screen, recommended videos in their feeds.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 08: Adam Mosseri speaks onstage at the WIRED25 Summit 2019 - Day 1 at Commonwealth Club on November 08, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for WIRED)
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Instagram has already attempted to copy TikTok with its Reels feature — an in-app tool for making short-form videos. But now it’s going further, as the company intends to experiment with changes that make the app look even like more TikTok.

“We’re also going to be experimenting with how do we embrace video more broadly — full screen, immersive, entertaining, mobile-first video,” Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said in a video. “You’ll see us do a number of things, or experiment with a number of things in this space over the coming months.”

Test group — Users in a test group will most noticeably see Instagram begin showing them full-screen videos directly in their feeds, some of which will be recommendations from accounts they do not follow. Ugh.

In announcing the plan, Mosseri said that Instagram faces tough competition from all sides and needs to keep people entertained if they’re going to keep them coming back. “Let’s be honest, there’s some really serious competition right now,” Mosseri said. “TikTok is huge, YouTube is even bigger, and there’s lots of other upstarts as well.”

Stay in your lane — That’s all fine and well, but Instagram’s plan to compete is by slapping on features from a competitor and then pumping them out to its more than one billion users without asking them if they want it first. Conveniently, Mosseri is announcing the plan just as parent company Facebook defeated an antitrust challenge by the FTC, which tried to argue that Facebook uses its power to dominant the social networking space. Hmm.

Instagram in 2021 is a very busy app.Instagram

But at least the way Instagram copied Snapchat Stories made some sense, as Snapchat is more private and ephemeral in nature. TikTok and Instagram are public and permanent — why would a person who uses Instagram even want it to be TikTok when they could just download TikTok? Instead of reacting to what users want from Instagram, it seems the company is instead attempting to define what its users want for them, all in the interest of getting more of their attention. And to maybe prevent encroachment from competitors — but any data you look at will suggest Facebook is not at risk of being defeated.

Instagram started out as a simple app where users could share square-shaped photos with no frills. And people loved it for that. But, to increase the bottom line, it’s today chock full of unnecessary features like a shopping tab and the aforementioned Reels product.

“We’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app,” Mosseri said. But why can’t it just be that? Short-term money, of course.