Photo sharing took off in 2010 when a tiny app called Instagram was launched. It blew the doors off smartphone usage in a way that Twitter had done for social media platforms on mobile. What the commentators like to call a “game changer”.
And for almost three years, it remained true to its ideals. Even after Facebook threw a load of stock at the originators, it didn’t really change much.
Then, a small start-up innovated. That company was Vine, which was swallowed into Twitter not long after launch. Their innovation was to tap into the resurgence of the GIF, and the 6-second looping video was born.
Suddenly, Instagram had a threat. Not a direct one, but one that was as playful as Instagram had seemed back in 2010. The commentators started to talk about Vine being the game changer, and focus shifted.
At this point, facing a loss of users, Instagram iterated – potentially a wrong move.
Of course, the introduction of the 15-second looping video was hailed as a smart move, possibly usurping Vine as the platform of choice for brands and consumers. It was called innovative. It’s not.
The reason I believe it’s not innovative is that is merely allowed Instagram to catch up, to crawl forward. Vine was a leap. (I’ll be talking about this in more detail at Silicon Beach in September).
The problem with Instagram’s decision to iterate swiftly means they forgot to think it through.
It’s actually made what was a great social service become an annoyance. And while a further iteration will fix it, they’ve sullied the experience that little bit more.
Who’s to blame? Possibly, it’s the centralised web experience that is Facebook. Now a public company, it’s answerable to shareholders and needs to make money. It can’t afford to be innovative, only to iterate; to make small movements forwards, not leaps.