Instagram becomes a one-stop shop for all your social media needs. And it sucks.
Anyone can share links in the app. you can go shopping Influencers can create their own online stores and more. With the help of Facebook’s newly rebranded meta, Instagram is well on its way to becoming a super app – basically an app where you can do pretty much anything. It’s a digital ecosystem all of its own, a place where you can shop and order a car, message your friends and make doctor’s appointments. You don’t need to have another app on your phone.
There are many good reasons why users might be attracted to a super app. It’s convenient, everything is in one place, and the user experience is easy as you don’t have to learn to navigate several different platforms.
However, as Instagram keeps adding more tools, it’s becoming less and less useful. Scrolling through Instagram hoping to find a post from someone you really know is like searching the bargain box for a designer shirt your size during a semi-annual sale — you might find it, but it won’t be easy be. That’s because the platform is now jam-packed with shopping ads and sponsored posts that aim to turn Instagram into an e-commerce site on a social media platform. And when you’re not being inundated with products for sale, recommended posts fill your feed in a seemingly sad attempt at Pinterest inspiration that might keep users glued to their screens. Instead, it’s annoying and frustrating. Posting to your grid has become secondary to posting to your stories. Shopping is more attractive than connecting. They launched Reels, which is just a less-fun TikTok rip-off. And the messaging system just isn’t that good. Instagram is starting to shit for following the steps of a super app. It turns out that a place for everything feels like a place for nothing.
The lack of competitiveness within an app ecosystem can make platforms less striving to be really good. If you don’t like an app, you can usually leave it for another platform. When Facebook went lame, users left it for Snapchat and Instagram. As Instagram became less fun for some users, they abandoned the app for TikTok. But where do you go if you want to escape the one app necessary to get everything done online? When there’s less app-to-app competition because one app does everything, there’s less drive for developers to create something good.
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“The extreme example is WeChat,” says Kaniyet Rayev, CEO of Appboxo, a startup that helps companies create mini apps within their apps. “Right now there are 2 million mini apps that can be accessed in WeChat. Just for comparison, I think the Apple App Store has about 3 million apps. So you basically have two-thirds of that accessible in one app.”
WeChat is based in China, which has a sort of political ecosystem that makes it easier for a super app to thrive than, say, in the US, which has some regulations to ensure a free market. But according to Business Insider, there is a list of Western companies like PayPal that are using the WeChat framework to create their own mini ecosystem.
But entrusting our entire digital life to one company might not be a smart idea — for our sanity, our privacy, or our general enjoyment.
“I think in general, unfortunately — as confirmed in the Facebook papers and documented by their own researchers — Facebook is willing to make enormous sacrifices in terms of societal costs in order to maximize their own profits,” said Jesse Lehrich, who Co-founder of Accountable Tech, a nonprofit dedicated to reforming social media to foster a healthier democracy, Mashable said. “And so I think super apps in general are a bit of a concern, because the whole point of a super app is that they’re for-profit companies trying to get users to never leave their ecosystem. That’s a bit worrying in general, but especially when you have a company that has put its own profits ahead of democracy and the safety and well-being of minorities for the past 15 years.