Instagram, the popular social media platform, has always been a topic of intrigue for many. As a former Instagram product manager, Eric Wei, who worked with the company from 2017 to 2019, has a unique perspective on the platform’s decisions and strategies. In this article, we will delve into Wei’s insights and explore the potential of Instagram’s upcoming app to compete with Twitter.
According to Wei, Instagram operates with two key characteristics that shape its decision-making process. First, “Instagram is all about building with conviction.” Unlike Facebook, which is known for its rapid testing and iteration, Instagram takes a more streamlined approach. The platform values thoughtful development and is less likely to rush into testing or rolling out new features. This approach has been ingrained in Instagram’s DNA since its inception and has played a significant role in shaping its growth.
Second, user experience is of paramount importance to Instagram. Wei emphasizes that the platform prioritizes the user experience above all else, even more so than catering to creators, public figures, or businesses. The focus on creators only extends as far as they can enhance the overall experience for regular users. However, it’s worth noting that after Wei’s departure, Instagram started shifting its focus toward creators, which ultimately led to Wei leaving the company to start his own creator-focused startup.
Instagram is now gearing up to launch a new standalone app that aims to compete with text-based platforms like Twitter, Bluesky, and Mastodon. The app, rumored to be named “Threads,” comes after Instagram previously launched a separate messaging app with the same name in 2019, which was later shut down in 2021.
Wei, as a former Instagram staffer and creator-economy expert, is cautiously observing these developments. He believes that there is room for another competitor in the text-based communication space, especially with Twitter’s recent changes. However, he remains skeptical about the success of another standalone app under the Instagram umbrella.
To understand the potential of Instagram’s new app, we can look at IGTV, Instagram’s attempt to compete with YouTube by offering a long-form video format. IGTV was launched in 2018 with its own separate app but was eventually sunsetted in 2022, rendering the app defunct.
When IGTV was introduced, creators had limited options for sharing long-form video content outside of YouTube or Facebook. To promote the feature, Instagram’s creator partnerships team actively sought out and onboarded celebrity and influencer talent. The strategy of leveraging celebrity endorsements is reminiscent of what Instagram is reportedly doing for its new Twitter clone, tapping into the influence of personalities like Oprah.
However, migrating long-form content from YouTube to IGTV posed challenges for some creators. This highlighted the irony of the current social media landscape, where creators often cross-post their content across multiple platforms. While IGTV had some elements that were on the mark, such as its mobile-first and vertical video format, its long-form nature did not resonate with users as expected.
IGTV, Threads, and Direct are examples of separate apps launched by Instagram that ultimately faced challenges or were discontinued. On the other hand, apps like Boomerang and Layout, both content creation apps, have seen modest success and have been integrated into the main Instagram app.
Wei expresses doubt about the viability of another standalone app under the Instagram umbrella. Instagram has struggled to make separate apps work effectively in the past. One potential alternative could be integrating a Twitter-like feed into the main Instagram app. However, Wei believes that the current complexity of the Instagram app would make this integration challenging.
Wei points out that many social media apps face a similar conundrum. To remain competitive, these apps feel pressured to continuously add new features to keep up with rivals. As a result, successful apps often become cluttered as they try to become a “super app”. Facebook has already gone through this phase, and Wei believes that Instagram is currently experiencing the same struggle.
The upcoming app from Instagram can be seen as a “Hail Mary” move. If Instagram cannot continue adding features to its existing app, starting anew may be the only option. However, the success of this endeavor remains uncertain.
As Instagram prepares to launch a new app to compete with Twitter, it’s important to consider the insights of former Instagram product manager Eric Wei. His perspective sheds light on the platform’s decision-making process and the challenges it may face with a new standalone app. While Instagram has experienced both successes and failures with separate apps in the past, the future of its upcoming app remains uncertain. Only time will tell if Instagram can successfully navigate the evolving social media landscape and satisfy the demands of its users and creators.
First reported on Business Insider