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This article was published on July 1, 2021

What we know about Instagram’s plan to beat YouTube and TikTok

New focus

What we know about Instagram’s plan to beat YouTube and TikTok
Ivan Mehta
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Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

Instagram is already a popular social network with more than 1 billion active users. But with TikTok’s ballooning growth, the firm is now thinking of moving out of its “photo-sharing app” silo.

Last night, Instagram‘s chief, Adam Mosseri, said in a video that the company is now building features focusing on creators, video, shopping, and messaging. Mosseri added that people now use Instagram “to be entertained.” He also acknowledged the scale of TikTok and YouTube — and hinted that the company wants to compete with them both.

One of the early experiments Instagram is going to try out is playing with your feed and giving you more recommendations on topics or interests you might not be explicitly following on the app yet. A recent test by the app puts suggested posts from different topics on your timeline, and let you choose if you want to see more or less content related to that topic.

Recommended posts in feed
Recommended posts in feed

In the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of talk about TikTok’s “Interest-based algorithm,” which starts out by showing a video to a small set of people who might be interested it, and expand from there. Now, Instagram seems to be tapping into that phenomena, and giving you some control over your interests as well.

Another ‘big’ shift for Instagram seems to be video. Now, the company has little success with IGTV product, which has been around for more than three years. Mosseri said that the company will lean towards “immersive, full-screen, mobile-first video.” That doesn’t tell me yet how it’s gonna be different from IGTV. Maybe put it on a website like YouTube too?

Until now, Instagram has made it easy to consume and discover content that requires a shorter attention span: photos, video clips in the feed, and lately, Reels. The company is yet to elaborate how it plans to change that, and how far it will move away from this current model.

The third part of Instagram’s big plan is creators, and last month, leaker Alessandro Paluzzi hinted at something called “Exclusive Stories” for fan club members. Last night, the company confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s working on this subscription-like feature.

In an interview with The Information in May, Mosseri said that a creator fund is not “off the table.” Notably, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, and Clubhouse all have a program to pay people to create content.

The firm also wants to concentrate more on messaging and help you chat more with friends and creators. Last year, it started merging Instagram DM and Facebook Messenger, and the rollout is still underway. What’s next? WhatsApp integration?

It’s not really surprising to hear Mosseri stress on the importance of diving deeper into shopping. The company started testing a new shop button on the home screen last year, and now it’s putting ads in a ton of things.

In May, a report from Bloomberg suggested that rival TikTok is also is preparing to introduce in-app shopping. According to a report by CNBC, the livestreaming shopping market in the US is worth $11 billion. No wonder more platforms are interested in it. 

We might have to wait for a while to see Instagram’s upcoming antics, but it’s clear that the firm is adopting the Facebook philosophy — trying to do a ton of things at once.

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