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As social media has evolved, users have noticed similarities between the most popular apps. Is this a coincidence?
Posting a story in 2023 means you either take five different pictures for each app or commit social suicide and post the same one everywhere. But ten years ago, doing this meant you would only have to open Snapchat, which initially introduced the exclusive feature in October 2013. Let’s talk about the homogenization of social media apps.
As more and more people keep their phones with them at all times and use them to interact with others, social media has become one of the most important channels of communication, entertainment, and information. But these apps, which once served a distinct and specific purpose each, have now blurred the lines of individuality.
The homogenization epidemic started around 2016, with Instagram brazenly lifting the Stories concept from Snapchat. This inevitably resulted in the siphoning of Snapchat’s users and the decline of user interaction since the release of Instagram Stories in August of that year. Today, Snapchat has only 187 million daily users, while Instagram has 400 million.
Similarly, other apps like Facebook, Messenger, Whatsapp, Youtube, and even LinkedIn didn’t hesitate to follow suit. Twitter, with its quick-to-die-off Fleets, short for “fleeting tweets,” was globally shared with the public on 17 November 2020. However, this feature only lasted nine months after its launch, turning out to be comically unsuccessful.
Soon after being permanently removed from Twitter, Fleets was replaced with its trendy and overlooked second child, Spaces, which, in turn, is quite similar to Clubhouse, unsurprisingly enough. Furthermore, Twitter Spaces has over 200 million daily active users, while the latter has just 4.9 million.
Moreover, with Tik Tok’s rise and apparent takeover of the social media panorama, many other apps have also copied its highly addictive format, without mentioning the integration of Instagram and Whatsapp into the Facebook universe. Furthermore, Instagram introduced Reels, Pinterest has Story Pins, and Twitter has not only reproduced the short-form video format but has also introduced “For You” and “Following” tabs on the timeline, just like the video app.
To illustrate further, as Neil Perkin and Peter Abraham point out in their book Building the Agile Business Through Digital Transformation, consumer expectations drive companies to take these actions. As a result, with “transformed consumer contexts,” the services that each of these companies provides individually gradually become available across the board to make it more comfortable for the user.
Another point of view, taking in mind that all is fair in love, war, and business, is that these companies are not only looking to give comfort to their users because they care, but they are searching to create a fidelity that dissuades the user from using any other app. Further, precious time that can be wasted on one app is suddenly being shifted to another, and many of these companies are not too happy about being left out of all of the fun.
Instagram is an excellent example; with each new feature, such as Stories, IGTV, Reels, Shop, and their latest introduction of Notes, it seems the app is trying to be Snapchat, Youtube, Tik Tok, Depop, and Twitter all at the same time. And it looks like they forgot their own identity in the process.
“Instagram tryna be everything at once, copied Snapchat with the stories, youtube with igtv, then tiktok with reels, like DAMN I just wanna see my friends posts,” wrote Twitter user @kaivirgil (s.aiorse) about the apps constant changes.
In response to a video posted by Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, explaining the new Reels feature, Twitter writer @stefthepef (Stef Schrader) commented, “Photo posts I come to Instagram to see—it's why Instagram exists, remember? Pictures???—aren't getting shown as frequently as some spam account's stolen reels….”
“I would say we've never seen a great ‘lift and shift,’” says Nicole Greene, a social media analyst at the research firm Gartner, tells Wired, “The better strategy would be making it even better for your platform by tailoring these experiences or optimizing it based on the way their base is engaged.”
It certainly can feel jarring to have such oversaturated apps. Where everything is everywhere, all at once, it may seem like there is no space even to think. Of course, it’s understandable that companies don’t want to lose relevance in such a dynamic social media market. Still, they must understand that “one size fits all” is not applicable in a space where diversity can be the ultimate game-changer. Also, from what we can see, the frenzied introduction of these features isn’t always welcomed by users, and apps have faced backlash for making changes that don’t align with the app's original purpose.
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