Photo: Chandan Khanna / AFP / Getty Images
Once upon a time in a land far, far away, internet in 2017, teenagers told me that they preferred Snapchat to Instagram Stories. Snapchat, they said, was more fun. There was room to be a complete idiot and not feel examined, to be trapped by permanence, or judged by tastes and measured favorites, of which Snapchat was not. And yet, despite his effusive praise for Snapchat and his skepticism about Instagram, Instagram won. It took less than a year for Instagram to beat Snapchat in its own game and become the platform for ubiquitous stories, despite not being the creator of the format.
This week, Instagram announced that it is testing something that, while not necessarily an absolute copy of something Snapchat did first, felt a bit familiar. During the F8 developer conference on Facebook, Instagram boss Adam Mosseri announced that the platform is testing, in Canada, a version of the service without "likes". People may still like and comment on the photos you post on your grid; however, they will not see the exact number of people who also liked your photo or video.
The idea here is not terrible. It's the kind of social networking world that Kanye West envisioned in 2018 in a series of tweets about how social networks, as they currently exist, have an "intense negative impact on our self-esteem." (Earlier this year, Twitter announced that it was testing a similar feature.) Apart from West's divergences, the culture of social networks focused on the likes is bad. Complete stop Make platforms like Instagram do not share your life with friends or fans, and show those friends all the ways that your life is better than theirs. Social networks have more to do with winning, often feeling, than with connection. There are many good things that could potentially come out of an Instagram culture that is not focused on an unhealthy "likes" rating.
There are many good things, in other words, that could leave Instagram more and more as Snapchat used to be. The first days Snapchat was fun as hell. I downloaded the application as a university student and I remember that I felt it was the first social media platform where I could publish and share things without finding myself participating in a game and accumulating a score. The last time I felt I had been receiving a Facebook account years before, though that freedom had more to do with not understanding how Facebook worked than with being a safe place to post. It is not difficult to imagine a world in which the elimination of "I like" could free people to publish with a little less fear of the imperfection in Instagram. (It's one thing.) If you do not think it's a thing or you're thinking, That's just one thing that a teenager would feel stressed by, please know that you are wrong.)
The problem is, well, the same problem that Snapchat ran into. The same qualities that made Snapchat funny and strange also made it difficult for businesses and influential people to thrive there. If it was a rising star on Snapchat that was looking to make sponsored content or brand offers, I had to take it on to prove to those companies that it was worth the investment. It was not immediately known who was popular and much sought after. Unlike on Instagram. Snapchat showed each user a list of who saw their content, but this was not visible externally, which means that the creators had to take a screenshot of those lists and show them to potential partners as proof of the possible return of the investment. The new Instagram, as it is being tested, could work in the same way. Users will be able to see their own metrics, but people who scroll through their accounts will not.
Instagram is testing a number of things and if this new format becomes a reality, the metrics are likely to remain accessible to influential people and businesses in the back, something that Snapchat eventually introduced in early 2018. However, , that is likely to ruin things for influential people. And that's a problem Making it more difficult for influencers, content creators and traditional companies to get economic benefits on the platform was, ultimately, a death sentence for Snapchat. Social networks need influencers as much as, possibly more than, influencers need them. They drive the traffic against which the platforms can sell ads, and often the creators, not the platforms, show the companies the full use and scope of what the product they have created can do. (As an example, the growth of Tumblr, and its definitive demise, certainly was not helped by the fact that it's almost impossible to earn money like a Tumblr star).
Of course, Snapchat still exists and is used all over the world, but it no longer has the initial essential factor that initially drove it. He lost that when the fun and the strange and the creative went because Snapchat made it too hard to create and maintain business on the platform. And business growth and growth potential tend to drive the growth of a platform in general. (Rest calm, Vine). By making Instagram free, the platform can earn some of the weird and funny things that Snapchat has lost. You just have to make sure you do not lose business, too.
Sign up to receive the Intelligencer newsletter.
Daily news about politics, business and technology that shape our world.
Terms and Privacy Notice