Instagram users share outrage as platform tests major changes

The adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is well worn for a reason, but it seems Meta hasn’t gotten the memo when it comes to Instagram.

While some major changes to the company’s media-sharing app over the past month have been welcomed, others have left users perplexed.

A recent widespread trial reported that the platform is moving away from its roots, favoring vertical video content over traditional square posts.

Additionally, the platform boss announced he would be rolling out AMBER Alerts – a feature used to alert the public to missing children – for users in 25 countries, including Australia.

DT examines why Instagram’s proposed changes have caused frustration among users and how AMBER alerts will be integrated into the platform.

“Visual Refresh”

Instagram’s reinvented feed format has received a chilling reception on social media, with users chosen for the trial expressing their disappointment online.

Instagram announced late last month that it was testing a “visual refresh” with a select group of users, with the revamped features apparently borrowing elements from video-sharing app TikTok.

In what Instagram boss Adam Mosseri describes as a “new immersive viewing experience”, media from posts takes up more of each user’s screen.

Captions and “action buttons” (for liking, commenting, and sharing) are displayed above the media.

And, when viewing square posts, the edges surrounding the image are filled with a blurred background.

Instagram users could once only post square images, but the app has evolved in recent years to allow for different post sizes, orientations, and even video content.

And with the introduction of Reels in 2020 (short vertical videos), it looks like Instagram has pivoted into becoming a video-sharing app.

It’s a move possibly prompted by the growing presence of TikTok, which has been the most downloaded mobile app for two years.

Before and after: Instagram is testing a new feed format for a select group of users.

But while the transformation might make financial sense, it seems to frustrate users stuck with the new format.

One frustrated user called it “the death of photography on the platform”, and another said it was “so awful I want to quit Instagram”.

This isn’t the first time Instagram has borrowed ideas and concepts from another platform.

Instagram was the first platform to not-so-subtly borrow Snapchat’s “Stories” concept in 2016.

The change appeared to leave Snapchat in the dust, with the app seeing a gradual decline in the number of daily active users, while Instagram’s continued to soar.

Users will have to wait and see if their online fury is enough to stop Meta and Instagram from rolling out the new format to the rest of its users.

More Changes

The TikTok similarities don’t end there.

instagram also announced it extends its Reels duration to 90 seconds, while giving users the ability to pin posts to their feeds.

Additionally, Instagram is currently testing a new change to its stories mechanics.

Users can still post up to 100 stories to their account at a time, but viewers with the update see three of their stories when browsing and are prompted to they must press “Show all” if they want to keep watching.

AMBER Alerts

Meta recently confirmed that it will expand its Facebook AMBER Alert (“America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response”) feature to Instagram users in 25 countries.

With over 38,000 missing person reports received by Australian police each year, this feature could prove to be a useful tool.

First implemented in the United States, the alerts – used to send information to users in a specific location who might be able to help locate missing children – have since gone global.

Queensland became the first Australian state to implement a version of AMBER alerts in May 2005, shortly after they were introduced in the United States.

Other states joined when Facebook launched its AMBER Alert program in 2017, in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police.

Through Facebook’s system, users scrolling through their timeline receive an alert with an image and details of the missing child – which they can either use to contact emergency services or share on their networks.

Mr Mosseri told his followers that his AMBER alerts would be displayed in the same way.

“As you scroll through your feed, if there’s an AMBER Alert in your area, you’ll see it in your feed,” he said.

“One of the reasons we think this is compelling is that we can include an image, which you can’t include in an AMBER Alert that displays as text.”

Example from Instagram of what an AMBER alert would look like in your feed.

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