Chris Hannah


Premature thoughts on Threads #

You may (or may not) have noticed the impending arrival of Facebook Meta Instagram’s new social app. Well, it’s now officially coming out on the 6th of July, and it’s called Threads.

The main rumour was that this new app would support ActivityPub, which is an open protocol that Mastodon is based on. This has led to all sorts of reactions. From people completely opposed to anything from Meta connecting to the Fediverse, and wanting to block it from their instance. To people that are excited about the potential of the new users that it would bring to the degenerated social network world.

I’d say I’m somewhere near the more optimistic end. Because, there is clearly space in the market for a new short-form text-based social network, and if it’s backed by Instagram, then it stands a good chance of surviving. Or at least gaining enough attention to make it viable in the short term.

Regarding ActivityPub and the Fediverse, my opinion is that if Threads fully supports the protocol, then that is surely a good thing. Because, apart from major social networks simply not existing, having them work with an open standard is surely a pretty cool thing.

I do not doubt that some people will not want to have their instance to connect to Threads. This is a totally valid opinion, and I’m sure there will still be options for this.

However, I’m guessing a lot of Mastodon instances won’t block Threads. Which means, if you know people that didn’t make the jump to Mastodon, you may now be able to communicate with them this way.

Either way, it’s a curious situation that a major platform like Instagram would even think about integrating with something open and decentralised. And I look forward to seeing what happens as a result of this.

More Thoughts and Links on Instagram’s Switch to Focus on Video #

I wrote about Instagram yesterday and how I think there will be a new dominant photo-sharing platform soon, and quite a few others seem to have Instagram on their minds too. Probably because of the Kardashian’s/Jenner’s posts, the petition, the push to video, etc.

Firstly, Casey Newton wrote about Instagram in his Platformer newsletter, where he talked about how Instagram are reversing some of their recent changes, and also shares the transcript of an interview he had with Adam Mosseri, the Instagram CEO:

Instagram will walk back some recent changes to the product following a week of mounting criticism, the company said today. A test version of the app that opened to full-screen photos and videos will be phased out over the next one to two weeks, and Instagram will also reduce the number of recommended posts in the app as it works to improve its algorithms.“I’m glad we took a risk — if we’re not failing every once in a while, we’re not thinking big enough or bold enough,” Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said in an interview. “But we definitely need to take a big step back and regroup. [When] we’ve learned a lot, then we come back with some sort of new idea or iteration. So we’re going to work through that.”The changes come amid growing user frustration over a series of changes to Instagram designed to help it better compete with TikTok and navigate the broader shift in user behavior away from posting static photos toward watching more video.

Nick Heer at Pixel Envy, also wrote about the decision to reverse the latest changes, along with some thoughts on Meta:

[…] look at the past few weeks of Meta news and it seems like the company has zero idea of what to do or why people use its products. It made drastic unlikable changes to Instagram; its leadership is panicking over TikTok; its latest public demonstration of its metaverse future is embarrassing and its educational value is less justified than the VR headset in a thirty year old Simpsons clip. Do these decisions look like the product of a focused company that has near-term goals for its future and innovative ideas beyond that? I am not saying Meta is dead in the water, but it sure looks like it is struggling to define what its future looks like for the next few years.

I must admit, when I wrote my thoughts yesterday about Instagram, I wasn’t including the context of it being a part of Meta. And I think a lot of the problems probably stem from the constant engagement chasing and a seeming anxiety about every other platform on the internet.

Greg Morris, wrote about the platform from the perspective of a photographer:

So, where does this leave photos. As a photographer, I wholeheartedly believe that Meta does not give a damn about photos. It is a legacy which they would get rid of if they could. All the surrounding words were half-hearted and stale. Using words like “continuing to support photos” without actually showing any excitement or reassurances to those that are left out.[..] Adam pointed out that even if they don’t change anything else, more and more videos are being shared and that’s what the users like. This may be the case, but you only have to look at the volume of users that have to post videos to get the engagement they used to. My evidence is of course anecdotal, but I have not met a simple photographer that posts a Reel apart from that they have to, or they lose work.

It’s probably obvious, but I would say that photographers will be some of the first people to switch to another platform. Especially since there’s now a great platform for photographers in Glass. However, until there is a new Instagram-like platform where everyone can share and view photos, I would expect at least some kind of presence on Instagram would be needed for photographers trying to gain more exposure and potential clients.

Matt Birchler also seems to agree that the best place right now for photographers is Glass:

All this said, I think that people see Instagram and think their goal is to be the best place for sharing photos online, but I think that their ultimate goal is to be the place people spend the most time consuming visual content, and they will chase whatever trends they need to stave off competitors who challenge them. They started with photos, but their hart clearly isn’t in them anymore.If you want to use a social photography app, then Glass is the current leader in my book.

I think this is the main problem. Instagram just isn’t a photo-sharing platform anymore. You could say it’s evolved, although I’d argue that it’s simply reacting to every other online social platform, but nevertheless, it’s changing to a more video-focussed platform. And while photographers won’t like that, given what Instagram used to be, it’s not as if we’re being forced to stay.

I Think There Will Be a New Dominant Photo-Sharing Platform Soon #

This is primarily a feeling that I have, based on my experiences, and what I’ve seen both on social media, and from other people. So don’t expect any scientific studies or extensive market research. But for a few years, Instagram has clearly been getting worse as a platform.

I have no idea why Adam Mosseri (Head of Instagram) keeps posting his rants on Twitter where he tries to explain that clearly everything they’re doing is what users want. I know it’s unreasonable, and probably stupid, to keep Instagram how it was originally without ever trying to improve the platform. However, for an app that most people use as a social network to communicate and to share photos and videos, they sure have gone about it in the most complicated way.

They eventually removed IGTV, which was essentially just another type of video. But now along with the content on your Feed, and ephemeral content posted to your Stories, there are Reels. Which is their attempt at capturing users back from TikTok, where you have an endless stream of algorithmically selected content. Just how Stories was them doing the same thing to Snapchat.

When you’re scrolling on your Instagram Feed, instead of it being a list of content from people that you follow, you’ve also got sponsored posts, recommended posts from people you don’t follow, products that are for sale, people you should follow, and a few reels sprinkled about. There doesn’t seem to be much difference nowadays between your Feed and the Explore section.

Anyway, I think it’s clear now what my thoughts are on Instagram. And I’m sure there are plenty of other people that have been feeling the same for a while. However, more recently, I’ve noticed muggles “normal” people starting to grow a bit tired with Instagram’s self-bastardisation. Where their main goal is engagement, not a good service, just “how can we get more people’s eyes looking at our app for longer periods of time”.

There are two apps I’ve personally noticed people using recently to share photos with friends. The first one being Dispo, which I used a while ago, and just played with again today. I know it used to be about “living in the moment”, as you’d choose a camera (essentially a filter or style), and then took your photos, which you’d then have to wait until the next morning as they were “developing”. From what I’ve seen, they have also expanded this to become also a photo sharing platform, with a simple feed of your photos, more camera effects, and also an instant “develop” feature. I think it’s clear they want to try to poke their nose in a potential Instagram-sized hole at some point.

The second app I’ve seen grow recently is BeReal. Which is based on an interesting concept, where everyday everyone on the platform is notified at the same time to capture and share a photo of them in that moment. You get a 2 minute window to post what you’re up to, and you can only view other people’s photos once you have shared your own. Although you can capture a photo after the time, it will just have a “posted 2 hours late” mark on it. I don’t think this will replace Instagram, in a way where it does the same thing. But I certainly think it will start to grab people’s attention away from Instagram, and this may be some people’s platform where they share their life with friends and family. Similar to how Snapchat isn’t an Instagram clone, but that certainly has its own place in the world.

I have to also give a mention to Glass, which is a (paid) photo sharing platform. It’s probably the most essential version of Instagram. However, it’s specifically for photographers, so while I think it will grow, most people aren’t photographers.

I’ve been thinking for a while that there needs to be a new dominant photo-sharing service, but it’s definitely starting to feel like more people are thinking that way too. Although I doubt they’d use those words. Just ask the Kardashians and the backers of this petition.

Instagram Turns 10 #

Instagram is now 10 years old (Wow), and they are celebrating it by releasing a few new updates to the app and platform.

There’s a few small change to the platform, like anti-bullying features that aim to hide abusive comments, adding warnings for people that regularly try to post “offensive” remarks, and a few other things like the constantly moving tab/icon arrangement. I’ll leave that for Instagram to explain.

I’m interested in two things in the update. The ability to set a custom app icon, and the new Stories Map that you can find in the archive.

Custom App Icons

You now have the ability to change the app icon for Instagram! I know it’s possible via Shortcuts, but these are actual custom app icons.

There are 13 to choose from, and they go back to 2010 before the app was even launched.

To get to the icons, you need to go to Settings, and swipe down from the top of the screen (a lot).

I’ve gone for the “Classic 2” icon. Because surely that’s objectively the best option?

Stories Map

The Stories Map is a cool feature, and it’s one for yourself. As in, it’s part of your own archive, and not visible for other people.

To find it, tap on the menu while you’re viewing your profile (What even is this menu called?), and tap Archive. Then you’ll be able to see your past stories in a simple reverse-chronological list like before, in a calendar view, or on a map.

I think the calendar view will be the most useful when going back and looking at old videos. But the map view is also pretty cool. Although if you want your videos to appear on your map, you have to add a location sticker to a story when sharing it.

As much as I get annoyed with Instagram Reels and Shopping taking up more real estate on the app, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Oh, and if you want to find me on Instagram, I’m @lordchrishannah. (Yes, technically I’m a Lord, I own a square foot of land in Scotland)

Downloading Your Instagram Data #

Many people, including myself, are trying to move away from Facebook and their related apps/services. But before you delete any accounts, it’s obviously ideal if you can retrieve any data first.

With Instagram, you can request to download your data, and they’ll send a link where you can download all your images, videos, and stories.

You also get .json files for a lot of the associated data:

So they really do give you everything!

To download your data:

Instagram will then package up all your data, and send you an email with a link to the .zip archive.

Multiple Photos and Videos in One Instagram Post #

Instagram announced on their blog, that they now support adding up to 10 photos and videos in just the single post.

You now don’t have to worry about selecting the best photo, or not posting all of them because you don’t want to flood your followers feeds. This feature removes that problem.

The posts look nearly identical, except you can swipe left and right to navigate through the photos/videos. You’ll see if a post has many items, if you can see the line of blue dots beneath it.

When you’re creating a new post on Instagram, you’ll see the new “Select Multiple” option appear, which means you can select up to 10 different items to appear in the post.

One you’ve done that you press Next as usual, and you can apply a filter to all of them at once, you can still select one of them and edit as usual. At the minute multiple photo/video posts only support square formats, and there is the one caption for the whole post.

This is a nice addition to Instagram, and one I would of made good use of in my recent trip to Barcelona. I like the idea of Instagram Stories, but sometimes I don’t want to worry about saving them manually to my phone just so I don’t lose them. Now instead of posting separate posts about the same event, you get to show more of your photography skills off in less space!

If for some reason you haven’t got Instagram, then you can download it from the App Store.

(You can also follow me.)