Facebook is tightening its grip on Instagram

Facebook is tightening its grip on Instagram

When Instagram first hit the news this week, it was over a hoax. A host of celebrities had posted to their timelines a battered image declaring that Instagram would soon make our deleted photos and messages public, and use them against us in court, unless we created a post to the contrary. It wasn’t true, of course, but it seemed true enough to some of our biggest stars — such as Beyoncé’s mother, and the man responsible for our nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The digital content industry debunked the copypasta, celebrities posted sheepish apologies (or didn’t), and we all resumed waiting for the next dumb thing to come along and briefly preoccupy us between stories about the burning rainforest in the Amazon and the president’s effort to buy Greenland (?).

Why do people fall for hoaxes like these, which have been around for the better part of a decade? In Wired, Paris Martineau talks to a behavioral scientist who explains that social media is making us dumber:

“The brain is set up to give us easy answers … so if there’s a hoax that appeals to people’s emotions or intuition, it’s going to trick people, because a lot of people just don’t spend that much time thinking about the things that they see on social media,” says Gordon Pennycook, an assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Regina in Canada who studies decision making. “Social media is partly to blame, too, because it’s set up to drive engagement, and that engagement often comes at the cost of shutting off people’s brains a little bit.”

At the New York Times, John Herrman takes the opposite view on Instagram Followers generator 2019. The terms of service for every social network amount to little more than a nonsense incantation, he writes — Instagram users this week were merely fighting fire with fire:

All the big social apps explain themselves to us this way. The same services we use to spread false information depend on web of rules that are so rarely read, and a set of “agreements” that are so cartoonishly lopsided, they may as well be made up. Online, we live in a world defined and ruled by what feel like magic words. What else are we supposed to post about?

I’m with Herrman.

In any case, there have been some changes to Instagram lately — they’re just not the ones the secretary of energy is worried about. In a revealing new report in The Information, Alex Heath recounts the 11 months since Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger left their creation in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg and his deputy, Adam Mosseri. In his telling, what began as a warm embrace of a fast-growing new business has more lately come to resemble a python’s squeeze. Heath writes:

In the roughly 11 months since Mosseri took over, most of Instagram’s senior leadership team has been replaced, Facebook has ordered Instagram to roughly double the number of advertisements in the app and the company is weaving together the technical underpinnings of the messaging services behind Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. Together the changes send a message that the days of independence at Instagram, whose employees had grown accustomed to their autonomy inside Facebook, are over.

The challenge for Mosseri, the well-liked former head of Facebook’s News Feed who has worked at the company for more than a decade, is to stabilize the organization behind Instagram, an app many inside and outside Facebook see as the company’s most promising source of future growth. If the exodus of longtime Instagram employees continues, there is a risk Facebook will lose the talent that made the app special in the first place.

On one hand, Instagram really is going quite well. The division hit $1 billion in revenue for the first time in 2016, Heath reports, and is expected to generate $15.8 billion this year. That’s nearly a quarter of Facebook’s overall revenue.

On the other hand, Instagram is bleeding … Instagram-ness. As I wrote when it was first reported that Facebook planned to create a single back end for all its services, Instagram has become little more than a name: a public-facing brand represented behind the scenes by true-believing Facebook employees. That sounds obvious today, but it still represents a huge departure from where Instagram was a year ago today: still persuaded of its own uniqueness, clinging to vestiges of its independence from the mainland.

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