Instagram and Snapchat Announce Updates to Stay Relevant

Snapchat and Instagram logos on beach

Change is the only the constant, especially when it comes to social media apps. But that doesn’t mean the changes are unique.

Instagram is testing out a full-screen feed feature that looks awfully similar to TikTok’s interface. And Snapchat is joining Twitter in adding a paid subscriber tier. Also, if Elon Musk gets his way, Twitter will start to look a whole lot more like TikTok too. It’s the constant news: all your favorite tech platforms are converging into one.

Instagram’s New Feed Feature

The new but not-so-new full-screen feed feature for Instagram is soon to be in testing, according to a Thursday Instagram stories posts from Meta CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, himself. He also announced testing for a navigation bar update, although that wasn’t pictured in the image Zuckerberg posted or promotional content from Instagram.

“We’re rolling out the test gradually to a limited number of people in our global community,” wrote Meta spokesperson, Seine Kim, in an email to Gizmodo.

If you’re in the testing group, videos on the platform will take up nearly your entire screen as you scroll through (although the navigation bar will remain). Other icons for liking, commenting, or sharing and a video description will show up as overlaid on the video itself. Again, very similar to TikTok.

“This is a true full-screen experience,” said Kim. “Last month, we tested a feed that showed white space on the top and bottom of the posts when viewing 9:16 videos.”

Further, the navigation bar changes will include adding shortcuts for accessing messages and making a post, “so that it’s easier for you to connect with your friends and express yourself,” Kim wrote, quoting Zuckerberg’s post.

Instagram story screenshot

If all of this sounds familiar to you, the déjà vu is warranted. As Kim said, last month, Instagram tested out a similar full-ish screen video design, which faced lots of user backlash. Among other issues, the previous update attempt obscured captions and comments, and also tried to force all images into the aforementioned 9:16 aspect ratio—even the app’s hallmark square photo posts.

And previously, the post or “compose” button was located in the bottom navigation bar. It was relocated to the top right corner in 2020.

As much as it seems like Instagram is scrambling to keep up with TikTok, Zuckerberg was also sure to try to pre-empt user criticism, with a reassurance that photos would remain an “important part” of the Meta-owned app.

Screenshot of instagram story

Snapchat Paid Edition

Meanwhile, Snapchat has been doing its best to stay in the game for years now. And seemingly it’s worked out well enough so far. The app still has more monthly users than Twitter, at least.

However, Snapchat might not be doing so well financially, as its most recent attempt to maintain interest is also a dip into another monetization stream for the platform.

Snapchat revealed it’s working on “Snapchat Plus,” a paid subscription version of the app, with a few more features. In an emailed statement to Gizmodo a company spokesperson said:

We’re doing early internal testing of Snapchat Plus, a new subscription service for Snapchatters. We’re excited about the potential to share exclusive, experimental, and pre-release features with our subscribers, and learn more about how we can best serve our community.

The initial leak of Snapchat Plus’s reported features fittingly came via a series of tweets desde noted leaker Alessandro Paluzzi. Twitter launched its own paid user tier called Twitter Blue back in 2021. The details Paluzzi tweeted haven’t been confirmed by Snapchat, but he included some pretty convincing screenshots.

Snapchat reported missed revenue targets last year. The company blamed that downturn on an Apple iOS privacy feature that allows people to back out of ad tracking. So, it makes sense that the app would be seeking out other ways to make money from users, without the guarantee of being able to profit from user data.

According to screenshots posted by Paluzzi, Snapchat Plus users would pay $4.80/month or $48.08/year to access new features (although those may not be the final prices). The screenshots also hint at what the paid tier would be like. Some images indicate a new ability to “pin a friend as your #1 BFF,” and keep that conversation at the top of the app interface.

There’s also a profile badge for Plus subscribers, and “exclusive Snapchat icons,” according to the leak. The cherry on top of the whole thing: if you pay for Snapchat Plus, you’ll reportedly be able to “see your Friend’s whereabouts in the last 24 hours,” but only if they let you.

Update 6/17/2022, 12:45 pm ET: This story has been updated to clarify that Seine Kim is a Meta spokesperson, and that in one instance, a line from Kim was a quote from Mark Zuckerberg.


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