Instagram’s mindless copying of TikTok is beginning to annoy people

As Meta’s photo-sharing app continues to relentlessly copy TikTok’s approach to video, its leader justifies pivoting away from Instagram’s photo roots.

A closeup of the Instagram app icon on the home screen of an iPhone
Instagram is heavily cloning TikTok | Image: Brett Jordan / Unsplash
  • Instagram has been shoving Reels, its TikTok clone product, down our throats for months now and some of the biggest celebrities are now pushing back.
  • Kylie Jenner, Instagram’s second most-followed person, and her sister Kim Kardashian hate the new Instagram interface which prioritizes video over photos.
  • Instagram’s chief says the platform is leaning more on video because that’s apparently what people want. It’s either our way or the highway!

Instagram’s pivot to video

During the pandemic, Instagram’s parent company Meta began experimenting with fullscreen video content on Instagram. As fullscreen videos began appearing in users’ feeds, including recommended videos, disgruntled users began taking notice. Lately, the company has been pushing reels as the dominant video format a little too aggressively, which wasn’t lost on some of the biggest celebrities with a presence on the platform. Kim Kardashian, for instance, shared a post that begs for Meta to “Make Instagram Instagram again” and stop trying to be TikTok. There’s also an associated petition on with almost 100,000 signatures.

But Instagram’s chief Adam Mosseri on Twitter responded to those concerns with a video, seen above, in which he justifies the decision to become more like TikTok. “I need to be honest. I do believe that more and more of Instagram is gonna become video over time,” he said. “If you look at what people share on Instagram, that’s shifting more to videos over time,” Mosseri continued.

“If you look at what people like and consume and view on Instagram, that’s also shifting more and more to video over time, even when we stop charging anything.” The executive justified the decision by claiming that people have been moving away from photos for some time now, prompting the change. “We’re gonna have to lean into that shift,” he added. As for photos, Mosseri said Instagram is going to continue to support photos because “it’s part of our heritage.”

All things considered, Instagram appears surprisingly content with lifting TikTok’s features as a way of boosting users and retention rather than coming up with an original idea of its own. Whatever happened to risk-taking?

Instagram is envious of TikTok’s success

TikTok from the onset had a user interface specifically tailored to enjoying fun, short videos in fullscreen mode without meaningless interactions getting in the way. You only had to swipe up to watch the next video or swipe down to get to the previous one. Instagram lacks a product suitable for kids and it knows it—all the cool kids are on Snapchat and TikTok, so Meta felt compelled to simply copy TikTok’s interface. Recently, Instagram merged its Reels and Video sections under one tab. Plus, it’s made almost all videos on the platforms reels. And all those videos are fully available for anyone to remix. But there are some problems with Instagram’s pivot to video.

The problem with lifting TikTok’s interface

Three iPhone screenshots showcasing Instagram Reels
Reels is Instagram’s answer to TikTok | Image: Meta

For starters, not everyone is fond of a vertically-scrolling feed of stories. This feels like a forced decision to make Instagram look even more like TikTok rather than an improvement. On top of that, Instagram will now downrank any videos which are reposted from TikTok. There are some usability issues, too. As you scroll through the feed, you can no longer mute or unmute videos by tapping on them. And the removal of the classic infinite scroll means you can no longer zoom past ads. As if that wasn’t enough, Instagram has even borrowed TikTok’s post-by-post scrolling.

TechCrunch ran a great headline to bring those points home with the title “Instagram gets worse with dark patterns lifted from TikTok.”

“Inspired” by TikTok (and Snapchat and any successful competitor)

Moserri can talk all he wants about improving the experience and all that jazz, but Instagram is well aware of the danger that TikTok represents to its business. This kind of insecurity seems to plague Meta, too, which recently split the news feed on Facebook into two and tweaked the algorithm to work more like TikTok does.

Mosseri also addressed the backlash stemming from the new interface that
“We’re experimenting with a number of different changes to the app, and so we’re hearing a lot of concerns from all of you,” Mosseri said. “I want to be clear, it’s not yet good,” he said of the app’s new interface before basically saying that Instagram is going to ship the new interface to the rest of the community anyway. Which begs the question: Does Instagram care about what its users want?