Instagram and Snapchat announce updates to stay relevant

Snapchat and Instagram logos on the beach

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

Instagram is testing a full-screen feed feature that looks a lot like the TikTok interface. And Snapchat is teaming up with Twitter to add a paid subscriber tier. Also, if Elon Musk gets what he wants, Twitter will start to look like a a lot more like TikTok too. It’s the constant news: all your favorite tech platforms are converging into one.

New Instagram feed feature

The new but not-so-new full-screen feed feature for Instagram will soon be in testing, according to an Instagram Thursday story posting by Meta’s own CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. He also announced testing for a navigation bar update, although this was not portrayed in the image Zuckerberg posted or in promotional content on Instagram.

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

If you are in the testing group, the videos on the platform will take up almost the entire screen as you scroll (although the navigation bar remains). Other like, comment or share icons and a video description will appear superimposed on the video itself. Again, very similar to TikTok.

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

Additionally, changes to the navigation bar will include the addition of shortcuts to access messages and make a post, “so it’s easier for you to connect with your friends and express yourself,” Kim wrote, citing Zuckerberg’s post.

Instagram story screenshot

If all of this sounds familiar to you, déjà vu is guaranteed. As Kim said, Last month, Instagram tested a similar full-screen video design, which faced a lot of backlash from users. 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 square photo posts.

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

As much as it looks like Instagram is struggling to keep up with TikTok, Zuckerberg also tried to avoid criticism from users, assuring that photos would remain an “important part” of the Meta-owned app.

Instagram story screenshot

Snapchat, Paid Edition

Meanwhile, Snapchat has been making is better stay in the game for years now. And apparently it worked well enough so far. The app even has more monthly users than Twitter, at least.

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

Snapchat has revealed that it is 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 are doing initial internal testing of Snapchat Plus, a new subscription service for Snapchatters. We are excited about the potential to share exclusive, experimental and pre-release resources with our subscribers and learn more about how we can better serve our community.

The initial leak of reported Snapchat Plus features came appropriately via a series of tweets from noticed leaker Alessandro Paluzzi. Twitter has launched its own paid user tier called “Blue Twitter” in 2021. The details Paluzzi tweeted weren’t confirmed by Snapchat, but he did include some pretty convincing screenshots.

Snapchat reported missed revenue goals last year. The company blamed this slowdown on a Apple iOS Privacy feature that allows people to opt out of ad tracking. So it makes sense for the app to look for 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 final prices). Screenshots also suggest what the paid tier would look like. Some screenshots hint at a new ability to “pin a friend as your #1 best friend” and keep that conversation at the top of the app’s interface.

There’s also a profile badge for Plus subscribers and “unique Snapchat icons,” according to the leak. The cherry on top of it all: if you pay for Snapchat Plus, you’ll be able to “see your friend’s whereabouts in the last 24 hours”, but only if they allow it.

Update 06/17/2022, 12:45 ET: This story has been updated to clarify that Seine Kim is a spokesperson for Meta and that, in one case, a line from Kim was a quote from Mark Zuckerberg.

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