Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Instagram Has Become a Blend of TikTok and SkyMall

Instagram head Adam Mosseri, a few weeks ago:

But today I actually want to talk a bit more about video. And I want to start by saying we’re no longer a photo-sharing app or a square photo-sharing app. The number one reason that people say that they use Instagram in research is to be entertained. So people are looking to us for that. […]

Leaning hard on video at the expensive of everything else — now where have I heard that before?

Ben Thompson:

To this point I have framed Mosseri’s announced changes in the context of Instagram’s continual evolution as an app, from photo filters to network to video to algorithmic feed to Stories. All of those changes, though, were in the spirit of Systrom’s initial mission to capture and share moments. That is why perhaps the most momentous admission by Mosseri is that Instagram’s new mission is simply to be entertainment.

I have to wonder if it is in preparation for more than that, given this piece by Clive Thompson, writing for Medium’s the Debugger:

If you flew during the 90s and 00s, you probably remember SkyMall. It was a catalogue of completely loony products — often high-tech gadgets of dubious promise, such as “a vacuum cleaner to catch flies, an alien butler drink tray, a helmet that promises to regrow your hair using lasers.”

[…]

I can’t say precisely when my Instagram ads began to tip over into SkyMall territory. I’d been noticing the devolution for months, maybe years. But these days when I open up the app, every ad customized for me is some decidedly loopy gewgaw.

Maybe Instagram’s growth continues to be driven by the successful features it can lift directly from other photo- and video-based apps. But I wonder if this mix of ads for bizarre direct-to-consumer goods and the integrated e-commerce functionality are laying the foundation for a platform more like WeChat, Line, or Gojek. Perhaps Instagram does not expand into logistics operations, but why would it not push further into online payments, and buying and selling products? For many, shopping is entertainment. Why not facilitate that inside one of the world’s most popular mobile apps and take a cut of every purchase?

Even discarding my idle speculation, the name “Instagram” sure is beginning to feel outdated or, at least, disconnected.