Earlier this month, Facebook rolled out a pretty major update to Instagram that has made people quite upset. I'll get to the reason they're upset in a minute, but first, let's talk about the changes. Where the app used to have icons for sharing a new post or viewing your notifications, there are now icons for Instagram's Reels and Shopping features.
Developers change the layout and design of their apps on a pretty regular basis. There's nothing unusual about that. Usually, however, those changes are for the benefit of the user. The change adds a new feature, makes an existing feature better, or simply makes it more accessible.
In this case, none of those things are true. In this case, the change made it harder to use Instagram and did it for the sake of making Facebook more money. That certainly explains why people aren't very happy.
You see, for the average user, Reels and Shopping aren't the reason people use Instagram. I don't mean that no one uses those features, but they definitely aren't the core purpose of the service, which has always been sharing photos and, more recently, stories.
That's important because Facebook didn't change Instagram in a way that made either of those functions better or easier. I'd argue Facebook broke rule number one when it comes to designing software--do no harm. Okay, fine, that's not rule number one. I don't even know if there is a rule number one, but if there is, it should be that.
Here's what I mean: By far, the two most common things people do when they open the Instagram app is to share a photo or a story, and to check who has liked their photos. Every time they open the app they instinctively tap on the icons that represent those patterns of use.
Facebook knows this. It knows exactly how its users actually interact with Instagram. It knows that people aren't really using Reels or Instagram Shopping. It knows that what people want to do is scroll through their feed, share a photo, or check their "likes."
So, Facebook took the patterns and routines a user has when sharing photos to Instagram, and swapped out those buttons for ones that make Facebook money. It literally took the motor memory its users have developed for interacting with the app and is using it against them.
It would be like if your email app, the one you've been using for years, suddenly swapped out the "compose mail" button for a "send us $5" button and hid the compose email button somewhere else. Somewhere you never tap. You're so used to tapping on that button so, by default, you simply tap the "send us $5" button a few times every day.
Even worse, when you want to do the thing you opened the app for, sending an email, in this case, it's harder and takes you longer because you have to develop an entirely new pattern. That's why this change is pretty devious when you think about it.
It's literally bait-and-switch. You tap where you've always tapped when you open the app, but suddenly there's a different feature there. Facebook simply hopes that you'll be so enamored by the new feature that you'll get over the frustration that they made the change in the first place.
To make matters worse, almost no one has affection for Facebook. Sure, people use it all the time to stay connected with their family and friends, but I don't know anyone that "loves" Facebook.
The same isn't true about Instagram, which people actually like to use. It's always been simple to use, uncluttered, and easy to navigate. The worst thing anyone said about Instagram is that it still won't let you just view photos in the order they are shared by your followers.
Which, I guess was another example of Facebook clearly putting its own interests before those of users. That is, by the way, exactly what's happening here--Facebook is prioritizing what makes it more money, and by doing so, it's making Instagram a worse experience for users.
This leads us to why no one trusts tech companies: It's not entirely clear that companies like Facebook care all that much about how people actually want to use their products. Instead, it seems clear they'd rather just use that against them.