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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

Snap introduces Spotlight inside of Snapchat

Snap:

Submit your best video Snaps to Spotlight for the opportunity to earn a share of more than $1 million that we’re distributing to creators every day!

Go big or go home I guess. Snap puts a TikTok-like feed right inside of Snapchat and is giving away a million dollars per day to ensure they get the best snaps. Wild times.

I do not like Reels

Instagram has been the place that Facebook jams all of its cloned-app-features into for the last few years. When it copied Snapchat it jammed all of the features into Instagram. And now, as it clones TikTok, it is jamming those features into Instagram as well.

The Snapchat-like features are easy enough to ignore if you don’t like them. Stories can be muted by long-pressing on a Story and muting the user altogether. Simple. (Btw, I happen to like Stories.)

Reels, on the other hand, cannot be ignored as easily. When you open Explore/Search/Discover (or whatever it is called on Instagram now) you’re presented with a video that takes up around 1/3 of your phone’s screen and is usually some young teen girl “dancing”.

I do not like Reels. And I wish they could be turned off.

John Gruber:

But there has to be a limit to how much Facebook can cram into Instagram before it bursts at the seams, and Reels feels like too much. TikTok just doesn’t feel Instagrammy at all, so I don’t think the problem with Reels is execution, I think it’s just the basic idea of using Instagram to host Facebook’s TikTok clone. It’s a bad fit, and Facebook doesn’t have the taste to know it.

The medium of Reels may very well be fine. And Instagram’s execution of creating and sharing that medium may very well be better than TikTok’s (I don’t know) but their use by the community is simply not for me. And the fact that IG forces us to see them stinks.

So, with that I’ll likely be sharing less on Instagram. If you’re reading this you likely subscribe to my blog already (thank you). I’ll be sharing my public photos here and perhaps Flickr.

Yes, I’m old. Get off my lawn. I just mowed it.

Microsoft in talks to buy TikTok

Microsoft:

This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections. The operating model for the service would be built to ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments in these countries.

I cannot tell if this is a bad decision or a great decision by Nadella.

I’ve already said that I believe Satya Nadella is the best CEO in Microsoft’s history. So I’m willing to concede that he can see this move, and its implications, with a wider perspective than I can – but I’ll just briefly comment on the good and bad.

The bad first. TikTok comes with a huge amount of baggage. Its ties to China, the issues with its algorithm, and its apparent – and obvious – promotion of “pretty” people over “ugly” people. Perhaps the first move by TikTok to eliminate some of this was this transparency push?

The other baggage is that the platform, young though it is, is being used as a political tool already.

The good is that TikTok is obviously the next “Story” platform. Or, perhaps it is already the “Story” platform. What SnapChat stole from others, Instagram and Facebook stole from SnapChat, and now TikTok is the latest place for mostly short entertaining ephemeral content.

TikTok could, however, have some issue monetizing. SnapChat has. It is clear SnapChat will never become Facebook. By Instagram implementing Stories even better than SnapChat did they squashed nearly all of their growth. Instagram could have done the same thing to TikTok but I believe the talent has left the building over at Instagram.

I’ve seen a fair number of social platforms come and go. Most do not make it. And a lot of times it isn’t because they ran out of money – though that is the reason a lot of the time. Many times it is because building a platform that takes off like a rocket ship and immediately comes under intense scrutiny is very difficult to navigate. Platforms become known for the users and content they attract.

Microsoft would be an excellent partner for TikTok. They have the platform figured out, security*, privacy, etc. they are well known for, and their reputation inside of the US may help bolster TikTok’s reputation.

However, they have zero experience running a social network at scale. Remember when Balmer was thinking of buying Twitter? Though I don’t think they would have been under Microsoft. To wade into the mire that is social networking on the internet – while it has been massively profitable for Facebook – is fraught with peril I think.

I’m beginning to ramble. Again, I cannot see if this is a great move or a terrible one by Nadella. However, as CEO of one of the largest companies in the history of mankind – this is what he’s paid to do. A few years from now we’ll see whether or not this was a mistake.

* By security I mean that Microsoft is very good at its services business being secure. The most secure businesses and government agencies rely on a ton of Microsoft software and services. So they’ve proven that ability many times over.

Is Instagram about to plummet?

When Instagram first started to hit popularity – long after their failed attempt at being a check-in service – the app was all about photo filters. Anyone could snap a photo with their phone and quickly add a filter to make it look “better” or at least more interesting. It made everyone feel like a photographer.

At first “true” photographers balked at the platform. But then they saw the power of the network it was building so they started to sign up. Which created a boon for the platform and its Explore page because whenever we opened the app we saw gorgeous photos of the people, places and things we are interested in.

But this created pressure. I dubbed it Instagram pressure. It meant that the “anyone” (those that do not consider themselves photographers but enjoyed adding a filter to their photos) I mentioned before felt out of place. Incapable of producing such high quality, and often composite, results. So their usage began to wane. They were still looking but not posting as much.

Then the algorithmic timeline. Which made for completely different issues. It meant that really great photos from people with less of a following were getting little to no attention. And like-fatigue set in. Instagram had a problem but they had smart founders. They new they needed to act quickly.

So Instagram gobbled up Snapchat by stealing the medium of Stories and (in my opinion) improving on them. Which created another bolt of energy into the platform as there was now a way to create and publish far more content that didn’t need the same polish as a photo.

But then Facebook happened. True, Facebook purchased Instagram 6 years ago but it has only been the last 24 months that Facebook has taken a nosedive in public opinion. And with the founders of Instagram leaving the platform my own personal confidence in Instagram is at an all time low. In fact, I’ve stopped updating the app. I love Instagram as it stands right now. But I fear the next few updates.

Anyone that has been online for many years has seen the rise and fall of countless services for a variety of reasons. Mostly, though, the fall of a platform has something to do with some mass of individuals that originally embrace a platform eventually leaving a platform. Teens jump on Snapchat and move to Instagram and then move to TikTok or Musically. Tech people blog then tweet then blog again (yay!). Photographers use their own sites, then Flickr, then Instagram, then their own sites (and/or Flickr) again. At least, that is what seems to be happening.

Instagram has a huge backer, otherwise I think it’s decline would be as meteoric as its rise. So I don’t think it or Facebook will be gone any time soon. But I do have the feeling we will see photographers slowly leave the platform behind in order to publish elsewhere – whether that be their own web sites or Flickr or SmugMug or an as-yet-unreleased platform.